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The Best Meals of 2016, From Short Rib to Charred Avocado

Local food writers rave about their favorite dining experiences of 2016

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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 was your best restaurant meal of 2016?

MC Slim JB, restaurant critic for The Improper Bostonian:

“I was delighted to uncover fantastic traditional Mexican tacos at the itty-bitty, humble Rincon Mexicano in East Somerville: That chef from the D.F. has it going on. But the red-letter-day dinner was an epic debauch at Little Donkey, Jamie Bissonnette and Ken Oringer’s terrific globe-trotting small plates joint in Central Square. A few cocktails, 17 dishes highlighted by an awesome special of live uni with flatbread, a couple of bottles of wine, all the desserts. (I won’t cop to the party size but will admit to later hearing that even the staff was gobsmacked by our horrific excess.) The evening ended with us waddling over to Trina’s for some desperately needed Fernet-Brancas. I generally eat with more restraint, or I’d risk serious health issues, but for some reason — maybe my scarily food-nerdy companions, the elbow room that feels liberating after the tight quarters of Toro and Coppa, the fabulousness of the food and drinks — we really went off the rails that night. I can’t blame the review-research imperative every time.”

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

“Probably the meal for the ages that a large group of us had at Steel & Rye in Milton in September. The BBQ pork shoulder pot roast and the charred calamari with mussels were just two of many dishes that blew us all away. Lots of honorable mentions, though, including a spectacular meal at Mei Mei near Audubon Circle (try the lamb dumplings) and, further out, a "basic" meal of burger, fries, and beer at Worthy Burger in South Royalton, VT. Some night while everyone is asleep, I'm going to drive up to Vermont in a U-Haul and steal that restaurant (not sure where I'll put it but whatever).”

Jacqueline Cain, associate food editor at Boston magazine:

Deadhorse Hill [in Worcester]. One visit this fall, we started with these gigantic, wild oysters with house-made ice and mignonette. A spaetzle was lemony perfection, we got this melting short rib, there was super buttery toad-in-the-hole with thick toast, a runny egg, wild mushrooms, and spicy microgreens… Also a cool, low-ABV sour on draft that I can’t quite remember, but that’s a great option for a place where someone has to DD. The flavors were deeply comforting, but the meal felt surprisingly light. We also had excellent service.

Other extremely memorable meals at Waypoint, Tres Gatos, and SRV.”

Alex Wilking, food and drink contributor for Boston magazine:

“If I had to choose, probably Little Donkey. Every dish I had was better than the next. I still think about that charred avocado. Any trip I take to Alden & Harlow is also one for the books.”

Dan Whalen, food blogger and cookbook author:

“I traveled a lot this year and ate at some amazing places like Mission Chinese, The Progress, Animal, Husk, and even the James Beard House. My favorite meal, though, was when I slow-cooked lamb over an open fire on the outskirts of Yellowstone.”

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

“That time I had dinner at Aquitaine in the South End and an Air Canada flight attendant came to our table and asked us to switch our seats for two seats on a flight to Paris...leaving right then and there.”

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

“The Jacques la Merde unveiling at Puritan & Company was an easy lover, made me feel all special like a rich girl. The Eventide Oyster Co. pop-up at Commonwealth was both awesome and the last meal we had out before our baby girl was born. Relatedly, Honey Paw's "smoked lamb khao soi" at Lamb Jam was the best thing I ate this year.”

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

“That’s tough. I had a lot of awesome meals this year, mostly while traveling. My faves: grilling thick pieces of marinated pork belly at a Korean barbecue in Daegu, South Korea; a dinner of snow crab and house-made pasta at Nora Gray in Montreal; and a leisurely cheeseburger lunch on the second-floor patio at Husk in Charleston.

My best restaurant meal in Boston was at Branch Line on a random weekday night. That night I had a whole grilled branzino with herbs and lemon that was so simple and so delicious.”

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

“I had a memorable meal at Bisq; there was a standout special that included various roasted pig parts, but all of the dishes were spot-on. I'd also have to say the tasting menu at SRV was one of the best restaurant meals I had this year. Each course was bursting with flavor and just so good.”

Dana Hatic, Eater Boston associate editor:

Pelekasis, the night before it ended its residency at Wink & Nod. I could eat an entire tray of Brendan Pelley's spanakopita, and each subsequent dish delivered so much flavor and comfort at the same time.”

Rachel Leah Blumenthal, Eater Boston editor:

“This year was full of memorable meals; it’s nearly impossible to choose a favorite...but I asked everyone else to do so, so here we are. Back in March, I embarked on a very strict 30-day diet, during which I didn’t go out to restaurants at all. For my first post-diet restaurant meal, I went all out at the new Uni. I probably consumed my weight in sushi — insanely good sushi — and the hot dishes were remarkable too. I’m a sucker for Korean rice cakes, so I was particularly wowed by the hearty rice cake dish, made with kalbi oxtail, kimchee butter, and gremolata.

I’m going to cheat and name another favorite meal — well, a set of meals. Every meal I’ve had at Branch Line this year. It’s loud and full of energy, it’s got a killer heated patio, and the above-and-beyond hospitality is what you’d expect from a restaurant within Garrett Harker’s empire. I’ve gone there with so many different people — people with dietary restrictions, people who are just plain picky — and it makes everyone happy. The beer list is always full of funky, hard-to-find picks, and it’s all available in half-pours, so you can try plenty of things. Must-eats: the side of rotisserie drippings and roasted garlic for bread dipping; the sugar snap pea salad with marcona almond vinaigrette, mint, and ricotta; the fried potatoes with rosemary and kefalotiri; and, of course, the rotisserie chicken. (For a table of four, the half bird is plenty if you want room to try lots of other things.)

I also want to give a shout-out to Boston ex-pat Sam Monsour (jm Curley alum), who’s out at Preux & Proper in Los Angeles cooking up a storm. I visited some friends in the area a few months back, and we had a very memorable meal of excellent beignets, a po’ boy burger, and lots more.”

Uni Boston

370A Commonwealth Avenue, , MA 02215 (617) 536-7200 Visit Website

Rincón Mexicano

99 Broadway, Somerville, MA 02145 Visit Website

Mei Mei (Boston)

506 Park Dr., Boston, MA 02215 (857) 250-4959 Visit Website

Little Donkey

505 Massachusetts Avenue, , MA 02139 (617) 945-1008 Visit Website

Tres Gatos

470 Centre St., Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts 02130 617 477 4851 Visit Website

Wink & Nod

3 Appleton St, Boston, MA 02116 617-482-0117 Visit Website

The Honey Paw

78 Middle St, Portland, ME 04101 (207) 774-8538 Visit Website


1030 Massachusetts Avenue, , MA 02138 (617) 864-2300 Visit Website

Puritan & Company

1166 Cambridge Street, , MA 02139 (617) 615-6195 Visit Website


569 Columbus Avenue, , MA 02118 (617) 536-9500 Visit Website

Preux & Proper

840 South Spring Street, , CA 90014 (213) 896-0090 Visit Website

deadhorse hill

281 Main Street, , MA 01608 (774) 420-7107 Visit Website


569 Tremont St, Boston, MA 02118 (617) 424-8577 Visit Website

Commonwealth (Cambridge)

11 Broad Canal Way, Cambridge, MA 02142 (617) 945-7030 Visit Website

Alden & Harlow

40 Brattle Street, , MA 02138 (617) 864-2100 Visit Website


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

Branch Line

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

Eventide Oyster Co.

86 Middle Street, , ME 04101 (207) 774-8538 Visit Website

Steel and Rye

95 Eliot St., Milton, MA 02186 (617) 690-2787 Visit Website
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