As is Eater’s annual tradition, we’re closing out 2017 by surveying local food writers (including our own staff and contributors) on various restaurant-related topics, and we’re publishing their responses in these final days of the year. Readers, please feel free to chime in with your own thoughts in the comment section below.
Keep an eye on the Year in Eater archive page for other stories in this series.
Today’s first question: What were your top restaurant standbys of 2017? (See the 2016 responses here.)
MC Slim JB, restaurant critic for The Improper Bostonian:
“With 24 full-length Improper Bostonian reviews and a big chunk of the Boston’s Best food/drink and bar/club awards to write up every year, I don’t get to my favorite restaurants as much as I’d like, but I still dined widely outside of my professional research this year. I had the opportunity to do a lot of daytime exploring of Boston’s northwestern suburbs, an undersung culinary treasure trove.
Woburn has incredible Shaanxi hand-pulled noodles at Gene’s Chinese Flatbread, good fast-food Coney Island dogs at WuBurger, nice-priced Brazilian barbecue at Tuda Na Brasa, fine vegan Asian at Bayberry Café, and quality pork gyros at Olympia Grille.
Burlington has the awesome Sichuan Gourmet, the bargain-deluxe H-Mart food court, delectable Korean barbecue at New Jang Su, terrific vegetarian South Indian at Ritu Ki Rasoi, and for celebrations, the new Island Creek Oyster Bar.
Arlington has great sushi at Toraya, brilliant Thai at Thana, amazing tacos at La Victoria, lovely Persian kababs at Sabzi, and creditable Turkish at Pasha (love their döner).
Lexington has great Punjabi at Royal India, solid Taiwanese at Taipei Gourmet, and terrific French crepes and imported groceries at MA France.
In Waltham, I hit the genius Moody’s Deli, Taquería El Amigo, and Gustazo Cuban on the regular.
Weather permitting, I like the lakeside Fred’s Franks truck in Wakefield for a shnurble (charcoal-grilled hot dog and Portuguese chouriço with slaw on a good bun) al fresco.
At night back in the city, I kept returning to hallowed haunts like Erbaluce, Estragon, J.J. Foley's Café in the South End, Dumpling Café, Peach Farm, The Hawthorne, Drink, and Backbar, as well as newer favorites like Bar Mezzana, SRV, and Little Donkey.”
Marc Hurwitz, founder of Boston's Hidden Restaurants and Boston Restaurant Talk, restaurant critic for Dig Boston, and more:
“As always, I try so many places that it's sometimes hard to have any real go-to spots, but this year I did frequent Joe Sent Me in Cambridge (great wings, burgers, and fries), Cagney's in Quincy (a dive/not dive that has outstanding pub grub and lots of local beers), and Massimo's in Wakefield (friendly people, excellent pasta dishes).”
Jenna Pelletier, food editor of Boston Magazine:
“Yvonne's, Bar Mezzana, Waypoint, Sarma, Uni, Hojoko, the Table at Season to Taste.”
Jacqueline Cain, associate food editor of Boston Magazine:
“Parlor Sports is, as ever, the little sports bar that could. Watching several uninspiring U.S. men's soccer games there in 2017, with a fellow regular's F*** TRUMP soccer scarf hanging prominently under the ‘Refugees Welcome Here’ sign, made not qualifying for the World Cup ever so slightly less painful.
But I also moved away from Camberville in the fall — sob! — so my new local is the lovely Brendan Behan pub. My move has been picking up a burrito at Chilacates —another 2017 standby — but I just learned Eat More, Mexican! pops up there regularly with El Paso-style burritos, so I'll be taking more advantage of that in 2018.
I also absolutely love Vee Vee and have been by several times to take advantage of their top-notch beer list and snacks liked deviled eggs and manchego potato croquettes.
Flour's newest location on Dalton Street location is the BEST work lunch option. Love Parlor Ice Cream Co. popping up with frequency in Allston all year. Other perennial favorites are Brewer's Fork, Row 34, and Render Coffee.”
Catherine Smart, contributor to the Boston Globe and cast member of Milk Street TV:
“Waypoint is my favorite any-time dinner spot right now. It's fun, and festive, and open late. Do not miss the addictive crab fries or clam pizza. Close your eyes and point at the cocktail menu; you're bound to pick something wonderful.
Cafe Sushi. It's embarrassing how long it took me to get here, and now I dream about their pressed oshi-zushi and sparkling mackerel. This place is like a black cashmere sweater that's always the right fit; it's equally good for a casual weekday lunch or dressed up for date night.
Cantina La Mexicana has been a standby since my husband and I moved to Somerville a decade ago back when it was a small taqueria. This year they've really improved their cocktail game, while the food has remained delicious and affordable. Plus, they are super kid-friendly, and my toddler loves the refried beans almost as much as I love the rellenos and margaritas.”
Sam Hiersteiner, contributor to the Boston Globe and more:
“For when no one is looking: Wegman's Chinese food hot bar.
For uproarious good warm times: Alden & Harlow, Waypoint, Sarma, Smoke Shop, Row 34, all of Portland, Maine.
For quick and casual: Chilacates, Saloniki, Bon Me, Mei Mei.
For lil' toddler CJ's pleasures: Little Big Diner, Clover Food Lab, Eventide Fenway.
For every time my wife goes out of town: Sichuan Gourmet House.
For long boozy lunch: Coppa.”
Dan Whalen, blogger at The Food in my Beard and author of upcoming cookbook Tots!:
“I think I answer this question the same every year, but for me it will always be Toro and Coppa. In September I moved walking distance to Toro, which is a dangerously awesome thing. Island Creek Oyster Bar will also always be a standby for me, and I even went to their Burlington location this year and was happy to see the formula remaining strong in the suburbs.”
Dana Hatic, associate editor of Eater Boston:
“I'm a creature of habit, so some of my 2016 responses hold true this year, including Punjabi Dhaba and Lamplighter Brewing/Longfellows, along with Bagelsaurus. I've expanded my standby burrito places (from El Pelon in Fenway and Olecito in Inman Square) to include Habanero on Brighton Avenue in Allston, and I will make the trip to Washington Square for some comfort food at Stoked any time.”
Alex Wilking, contributor to Eater Boston:
“I have quickly become a regular at Burro Bar’s new-ish weekend brunch in Brookline. It’s incredibly inventive and affordable food, with top-notch service to boot. At this point, I’m always ordering either the smoked salmon eggs benny or the stacked chicken milanese sandwich.
I still can’t say enough kind words about Coreanos Allston, either. I probably order from there at least once a week.”
Rachel Leah Blumenthal, editor of Eater Boston:
“Most of my standbys are right in my neighborhood (Union Square, Somerville) — which I guess is unsurprising, considering the very nature of a ‘standby.’ I often find myself at Juliet, Ebi Sushi, Backbar, and, increasingly, the new and fantastic Field & Vine. And Casa B, always a favorite spot, has entered into even more frequent rotation now that the street-level dining room has been revamped into a cocktail bar. Taso Papatsoris and his crew are doing magical things at that bar. And for an easy weekday lunch, a quick stop into Capone Foods for a sandwich does the trick.
Just a little beyond Union, Highland Kitchen will always be on my standby list, and I’m also loving its new sibling, Highland Fried.
Over in Kendall, Cafe ArtScience is my go-to for cocktails — Tenzin Conechok Samdo is a genius. Dessert’s great, too. Tip: Grab a drink and a snack (some duck fat fries, perhaps?) at Commonwealth, followed by a drink (or two) and a dessert (or two) at ArtScience, a very short walk away. Solid night. And the other side of Kendall is making me happy these days, too. I fit in a number of visits to Mamaleh’s, Smoke Shop, Cafe du Pays, and The Automatic this year.
Nearby, the Central Square edge of MIT is on fire these days, and I squeeze in visits to Pagu, Saloniki, and Abide as often as I can.
Elsewhere in Cambridge, there are a few spots that I wouldn’t call standbys yet just because I haven’t been there enough times, but I see them easily becoming standbys in 2018: weird and wonderful little basement haunt Upperwest, which I’m ashamed I didn’t try until late this year, over a year after it opened; Pammy’s, which mixes stellar hospitality with a really pretty space and outstanding Italian-ish food; and Momi Nonmi, which has totally won me over in Inman Square in its first few months. Especially for late-night sake and snacks.
I don’t really cross the river with enough frequency to get in regular visits to many Boston proper spots, but I do have a few tried-and-trues up my sleeve, such as Haley.Henry and Gene’s Chinese Flatbread Cafe.”