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?
“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.”
“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.)”
“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!”
“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.”
“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.”
“Most visited this year would definitely be Tavern Road. I love the atmosphere there and am continuously blown away by the cocktails from Tenzin.”
“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.”
“Chilacates always. Alden & Harlow. Sarma. Coppa. Row 34. Bronwyn. Sichuan Gourmet House (Newton Highlands). Woodman's of Essex. H Mart Central Square.”
“The chicken soup at Branch Line is the only thing I crave that comes to mind.”
“I can always count on Bisq, Peach Farm, Oleana, State Park, and Cafe Sushi.”
“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.”
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.”
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.”