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Boston’s Top Restaurant Standbys of 2016: Row 34, Drink, Lone Star, and More

Local food writers discuss their regular haunts of this past year

Row 34
| Meg Jones Wall for Eater

As is Eater tradition, we close out the year by surveying local food writers (including our own staff and contributors) on various restaurant-related topics, and we publish their responses throughout the final week of the year. Readers, please feel free to chime in with your own thoughts in the comment section below.

Today’s next question: What were your top restaurant standbys of 2016?


MC Slim JB, restaurant critic for The Improper Bostonian:

“I spend so many nights researching my restaurant reviews for The Improper that I can’t revisit already-beloved places nearly enough. But I still hit a few favorites on the regular:

  • Erbaluce still kills it Every Single Frickin’ Time with its singular Piemontese cuisine and rare wines. Were I forced at gunpoint to choose one favorite fine-dining restaurant in Boston, this would be it.
  • You could routinely find me at Chinatown’s Peach Farm, enjoying its unfussy, splendid Hong Kong style live-tank seafood and Cantonese dishes, especially very late at night.
  • Yvonne’s served as a versatile stop all year to take visiting out-of-towners to gawp at its cheeky, glamorous atmosphere, enjoy the top-tier cocktails, and share a celebratory meal.
  • Hojoko, with its hip, raucous rock-bar ambiance, long menu of upscale-izakaya fare, and wicked cocktails (notably authentic Tiki drinks) became part of my standard pre- and post-Fenway rotation.
  • Drink in Fort Point and The Hawthorne in Kenmore Square aren’t just pinnacles of Boston’s craft cocktail movement, perhaps my favorite dining-out trend of the last 20 years: They serve as crucial engines of its growth as they train and disgorge new generations of talent year in and year out. Both understand the essential equality of hospitality and technical chops in creating a nonpareil drinking experience.
  • Bar Mezzana lured me back often for its amazing crudos, crostini, pastas, sleek atmosphere, warm hospitality, and outstanding cocktails and wines.
  • The new Sichuan Gourmet near the Burlington Mall is maybe the best of the mini-chain’s outposts of numbingly spicy, invigorating traditional Sichuan cuisine. It’s even better with a crowd.
  • And as ever, there’s my longtime local, J.J. Foley’s Café in the South End, presided over by publican supreme Jerry Foley, bolstered by his many strong sons (most ubiquitously his eldest, GM Mike Foley), a sweet waitstaff, and the kind of modest Irish and American bar fare that perfectly suits watching a big game, playing pub trivia, or idling away a few hours with friends from the neighborhood. It’s the textbook incarnation of a great and ancient Boston tavern.”
Yellowtail crudo at Bar Mezzana
Yellowtail crudo at Bar Mezzana
Rachel Leah Blumenthal/Eater

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

Santarpio's in East Boston for some of the best pizza in the region, Newbridge Cafe in Chelsea for its steak tips, steak fries, and meatballs, O'Sullivan's in Somerville for its big meatball-shaped burgers, Massimo's in Wakefield for terrific Italian food and some of the best desserts you'll ever try, Darcy's in Quincy for its pizza and sketchy patio (lots of characters there), Bova's in the North End for late-night pastry runs, Joe Sent Me in North Cambridge for beer and fries, and Donohue's in Watertown because everyone needs a Friday-night hangout (I'm the guy in the booth taking pictures of his mozzarella sticks each week.)”

Cheese pizza on a metal tray on a wooden table
Pizza at Santarpio’s
Rachel Leah Blumenthal/Eater

Jenny Johnson, co-host of Dining Playbook on NESN:

“I had Cafe Jaffa's chicken schwarma salad a minimum of 52 times in 2016. My business lunch go-to is the tried and true Davio’s Back Bay. Romantic night out at Deuxave, favorite specialty market Tuscan Kitchen + Market (soon to be in Boston), cocktails at Island Creek Oyster Bar. I eat for a living, and my gut would not survive if it weren't for Heather Costa of Revolution Juice — soups, juices, and smoothies that fuel me in between my daily restaurant television shoots!”

Dessert at Deuxave
Dessert at Deuxave
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Jacqueline Cain, associate food editor at Boston magazine:

Parlor Sports, Row 34, the Indo, Boston Public Market, Render Coffee. I go to New Bedford a lot, and I have loved the addition of dNB Burgers this year. Coreanos Allston is my new favorite pre-rock show spot.”

Hot chocolate at Render Coffee
Hot chocolate at Render Coffee
Rachel Leah Blumenthal for Eater

Alex Wilking, food and drink contributor for Boston magazine:

Deep Ellum in Allston remains my go-to bar in the area. They always have something on draft that I’m about, the Euro beers are in no short supply, and the patio is great during the warmer months. It doesn’t hurt that Lone Star Taco Bar is right next door.

I live a few blocks from Stoked Wood Fired Pizza Co.’s new brick-and-mortar, so I’ve quickly become a regular there. The restaurant has incredible pizza, sure, but the small bites and bar program are also noteworthy. A lineup of boozy milkshakes are debuting before the year is out as well, so I might just live there.”

Meatballs at Stoked Pizza
Meatballs at Stoked Pizza
Rachel Leah Blumenthal for Eater

Dan Whalen, food blogger and cookbook author:

“Most visited this year would definitely be Tavern Road. I love the atmosphere there and am continuously blown away by the cocktails from Tenzin.”

Cocktails at Tavern Road
Cocktails at Tavern Road
Rachel Leah Blumenthal for Eater

Rachel Cossar, food blogger and host of the new video series Curate the Plate:

Drink: burgers and those FRIES!!!! Oh, and anything made by Jan or Ezra, obviously. Row 34: the burger here as well — don't be fooled by the seafood-centric menu; the burger here is one of the best around. It has to be, otherwise no would order it from their seafood menu.”

The lobster roll at Row 34 is served on a buttered and griddled hot dog bun, and is accompanied by chips, slaw, and a slice of lemon.
Lobster roll at Row 34
Rachel Leah Blumenthal/Eater

Sam Hiersteiner, contributor to The Boston Globe, First We Feast, and Lucky Peach:

Chilacates always. Alden & Harlow. Sarma. Coppa. Row 34. Bronwyn. Sichuan Gourmet House (Newton Highlands). Woodman's of Essex. H Mart Central Square.”

Three tacos in an aluminum takeout container on a picnic table
Tacos at Chilacates
Rachel Leah Blumenthal/Eater

Luke O’Neil, writer-at-large for Esquire and freelancer for a variety of websites and publications, sometimes in the food and drink realm:

“The chicken soup at Branch Line is the only thing I crave that comes to mind.”

Rotisserie chicken on a plate in a pool of sauce
Rotisserie chicken at Branch Line
Rachel Leah Blumenthal/Eater

Korsha Wilson, creator of A Hungry Society and food writer for various publications, including Eater Boston:

“I can always count on Bisq, Peach Farm, Oleana, State Park, and Cafe Sushi.”

Sushi at Cafe Sushi
Sushi at Cafe Sushi
Korsha Wilson for Eater

Emily Phares, writer and illustrator for various publications and websites, including Eater Boston:

“I should get Eastern Standard tattooed on my forearm or something; my affection for it runs pretty deep. I lived down the street from them for years so went all the time, but even though I've moved further away, it's still a go-to. Little Donkey has also become a standby; it's centrally located, and the food's always solid. The other night I had shrimp toast and foie gras bratwurst that was incredible.”

Lobster fra diavolo at Little Donkey
Lobster fra diavolo at Little Donkey
Rachel Leah Blumenthal for Eater

Dana Hatic, Eater Boston associate editor:

“My standbys are mostly based on what's within walking distance of my home, so my standbys are Punjabi Dhaba in Inman Square, along with All Star Sandwich Bar, City Girl Cafe, and now also Lamplighter Brewing/Longfellows Coffee. Outside of that area, there's Saloniki in Fenway, Crema Cafe in Harvard Square, and Bagelsaurus in Porter.”

A flight of beer in Lamplighter Brewing-branded glasses sits on a bar, with brewing equipment visible in the background
A beer flight at Lamplighter Brewing Co.
Rachel Leah Blumenthal/Eater

Rachel Leah Blumenthal, Eater Boston editor:

“Without a doubt, I’ve been to Juliet more than any other restaurant this year; it’s the only place I go multiple times a week, nearly every week. It’s my neighborhood spot for all purposes: a quick cup of tea several mornings a week, sometimes with a pastry on the side; an excellent lunch to stay or to go — most likely a bowl of French onion soup, a French dip, or meatballs on toast; a special-occasion tasting menu for dinner; or a more casual, a la carte dinner at the counter, such as a lovely plate of pasta.

Other 2016 standbys include the Cambridge location of Lone Star Taco Bar for late-night tacos and booze; Loyal Nine’s cafe for wifi, caffeine, and baked goods in a really nice ambiance (especially during patio season); La Brasa for fun dinners and late-night pizzas; Ebi Sushi for a casual, excellent sushi lunch or dinner (sit at the sushi bar and order all of the daily specials); Backbar for the best cocktails, whether alone or for date night or for entertaining out-of-town guests; and Branch Line for dining with friends and family over a crowd-pleasing menu that centers around rotisserie chicken (not to mention the creative beer list — and hey, you can get half pours of anything!)

I have not yet found the appropriate special occasion for an all-out splurge at Tasting Counter, but I return for the rotating array of cheap late-night bites as often as I can. And now that Tasting Counter’s late-night vibe has morphed into a wine bar, there are even more options (and still plenty that won’t break the bank.)

Mamaleh’s and Smoke Shop have begun to enter into regular rotation as well, and as a bonus, they’re on a very short list of restaurants that excite several of my particularly picky family members.

Highland Kitchen will always have a special place on my standby list, and since East Coast Grill was also an old favorite when it was open, I’m sure you’ll be seeing the new East Coast Grill (soon to reopen under the same ownership as Highland Kitchen) on this list next year.

Can’t wrap this up without a shout-out to Sugar & Spice in Porter Square, my top choice for delivery. Guay-jub and crying tiger forever. (Honorable delivery mention goes to Lotus Xpress in Somerville.) Plus, Newtowne Grille for takeout pizza.”

French onion soup at Juliet
French onion soup at Juliet
Rachel Leah Blumenthal/Eater

Mamaleh's Delicatessen

One Kendall Square, Building 300, Cambridge, MA 02139 Visit Website

Saloniki (Fenway)

4 Kilmarnock St, Boston, MA 02215 (617) 266-0001 Visit Website

Stoked Pizza

1632 Beacon St, Brookline, MA 02446 (617) 982-3473

Erbaluce

69 Church Street, , MA 02116 (617) 426-6969 Visit Website

Cafe Jaffa

48 Gloucester Street, , MA 02115 (617) 536-0230 Visit Website

Deuxave

371 Commonwealth Avenue, , MA 02115 (617) 517-5915 Visit Website

Drink

348 Congress Street, , MA 02210 (617) 695-1806 Visit Website

Donohue's Bar and Grill

87 Bigelow Ave, Watertown, MA 02472 (617) 924-4900 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

Parlor Sports

1 Beacon Street, , MA 02143 (617) 576-0231 Visit Website

Lamplighter Brewing Co.

284 Broadway, , MA 02139 (617) 945-0450 Visit Website

All Star Sandwich Bar

1245 Cambridge Street, , MA 02139 (617) 868-3065 Visit Website

Davio's

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

Lone Star Taco Bar (Allston)

477 Cambridge Street, Allston, MA 02135

Tavern Road

343 Congress St, Boston, MA 02210 617 790 0808

La Brasa

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

Render Coffee

563 Columbus Ave., Boston, MA 02118 (617) 262-4142 Visit Website

Crema Cafe

27 Brattle St, Cambridge, MA 02138 (617) 876-2700 Visit Website

The Smoke Shop (Cambridge)

1 Kendall Sq., Cambridge, MA 02139 (617) 577-7427 Visit Website

Boston Public Market

100 Hanover Street, Boston, MA 02113 Visit Website

Darcy's Village Pub

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

Newbridge Cafe

650 Washington Ave, Chelsea, MA 02150 (617) 884-0134 Visit Website

dNB Burgers

22 Elm Street, New Bedford, MA 02740 (774) 202-0118 Visit Website

Santarpio's Pizza

111 Chelsea Street, , MA 02128 (617) 567-9871 Visit Website

Juliet

21 Union Square, , MA 02143 (617) 718-0958 Visit Website

Tasting Counter

14 Tyler Street, , MA 02143 (617) 299-6362 Visit Website

Coppa

253 Shawmut Avenue, Boston, MA 02118 617 391 0902 Visit Website

Joe Sent Me

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

Chilacates (Amory Street - JP)

224 Amory St, , MA 02130 (617) 522-6000 Visit Website

City Girl Cafe

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

Woodman's

, , MA 01929

J.J. Foley's Cafe

117 East Berkeley Street, , MA 02118 (617) 728-9101 Visit Website

Massimo's

19 Centre St, Wakefield, MA 01880 (781) 587-1757 Visit Website

Cafe Sushi

1105 Massachusetts Avenue, , MA 02138 (617) 492-0434 Visit Website

Oleana

134 Hampshire Street, , MA 02139 (617) 661-0505 Visit Website

Loyal Nine

660 Cambridge Street, , MA 02141 (617) 945-2576 Visit Website

Eastern Standard

528 Commonwealth Avenue, , MA 02215 (617) 532-9100 Visit Website

Peach Farm

4 Tyler Street, , MA 02111 (617) 482-1116 Visit Website

Hojoko

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

Backbar

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

State Park

300 Lower Level, , MA 02139 (617) 848-4355 Visit Website

Bova's Bakery

134 Salem Street, , MA 02113 (617) 523-5601 Visit Website

Sichuan Gourmet (Brookline)

1004 Beacon Street, Brookline, Massachusetts 02446 617 277 4226 Visit Website

R. F. O'Sullivan & Son

151 Central Ave, Lynn, MA 01901

Deep Ellum

477 Cambridge Street, , MA 02134 (617) 787-2337 Visit Website

Yvonne's

3 Winter Pl., Boston, MA 02108 Visit Website

Island Creek Oyster Bar

500 Commonwealth Avenue, , MA 02215 (617) 532-5300 Visit Website

Bisq

1071 Cambridge Street, , MA 02139 (617) 714-3693 Visit Website

Ebi sushi

290 Somerville Avenue, , MA 02143 (617) 764-5556 Visit Website

The Independent

75 Union Square, , MA 02143 (617) 440-6022 Visit Website

The Hawthorne

500A Commonwealth Avenue, , MA 02215 (617) 532-9150 Visit Website

Revolution Juice

150 Huntington Ave, Boston, MA 02115

Bronwyn

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

Bagelsaurus

1796 Massachusetts Avenue, , MA 02140 (857) 285-6103 Visit Website

H Mart

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

Bar Mezzana

360 Harrison Avenue, , MA 02118 (617) 530-1770 Visit Website

Newtowne Grille

1945 Massachusetts Avenue, , MA 02140 (617) 661-0706 Visit Website

Punjabi Dhaba

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

Branch Line

321 Arsenal Street, , MA 02472 (617) 420-1900 Visit Website

Row 34

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

Coreanos

7500 Almeda Road, , TX 77054 (281) 728-3751 Visit Website
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