Dining out isn’t just about the food. There’s the service to consider, of course, and the overall ambiance as well. In terms of Boston restaurant design, some 2017 trends continued into 2018: This year’s new restaurants are still, for example, heavily featuring murals by local artists, juxtaposing fancy details with rustic backdrops, and filling spaces with greenery. Boston diners also saw a few examples of expansive, opulent spaces in 2018, and on the other end of the spectrum, smart use of much smaller spaces.
This year’s Eater Awards included a design category; here’s a glimpse at those nominees and winners as well as some of the other most interesting-looking debuts of 2018, split into several categories. (Want more? Here’s a look back at 2017’s most beautiful new restaurants.)
Just Plain Opulent
Fancy restaurants, fancy design elements. These cavernous spaces are full of luxurious accents, from leather and marble to ornately carved wood and gigantic wine collections on display.
The Design of the Year winner boasts a striking mural, lush greenery, marble bar tops, impressive columns, and more.
The new location of Boston Chops has a classic upscale steakhouse ambiance, perfect for a power lunch or special occasion — lots of leather, lots of marble, and just a few well-placed pieces of cow-themed art.
Continuing in the steakhouse vein, there’s the new Del Frisco’s location at the Pru, featuring thousands of bottles of wine on display.
Really Leaning Into a Theme
Whether it’s a Tiki bar, a Japanese tea house, a backyard barbecue, or a taste of Havana, these restaurants picked an aesthetic and really stuck to it.
Eater Boston readers loved the design of Casa Caña, with its blue-green color scheme, tropical murals, and photographs of Cuba.
Soothing curved lines and muted tones are the highlight here, not to mention the skylit tree.
It’s Tiki, but it’s not too over-the-top. It also feels like a secret hideaway, given its subterranean address.
The Backyard Betty’s team went all-in on the backyard theme, featuring bits of Americana, a light fixture made out of a grill, grassy centerpieces, and more.
It’s a lively, kitschy Tiki bar with all the expected design elements, from Tiki mask tables to giant fish dangling from the ceiling to island murals.
Doing a Lot With a Little Bit of Space
They’re cozy, but not cramped — these pocket-sized spots are full of personality.
It’s a bit bigger than its older sibling Haley.Henry, but Nathálie still isn’t what you’d call huge. Both spots are long, narrow, and intimate, and both are the perfect places to discover a unique wine or two.
Around the corner from Nathálie, Fool’s Errand is a standing-room-only “adult snack bar” featuring glitzy chandeliers, fun wallpaper, and a very special piece of bathroom art.
Like Nathálie, Rebel Rebel is a funky little wine bar. Two of Rebel Rebel’s walls are giant windows, looking out onto the increasingly bustling Bow Market; one wall is plastered with “SEX MONEY POWER” posters; and there’s patio space with blankets and heaters.
Saus is a bit bigger than most of the other food vendor spaces at Bow Market, although it’s still rather small. The team made use of every inch with a bold color scheme, patterned tiles, and a sort of uniquely shaped seating area that runs in front of and to one side of the partially enclosed kitchen space.
The 2018 Eater Boston Restaurant of the Year has a bright, minimalist design with a few pops of color to make it homey. The floor and a neon Celeste sign are sky blue — a nod to the restaurant’s name, which means “sky blue” in Spanish, and the wall of the open kitchen is painted gold.
Also Quite Nice
Just some really attractive new spots that don’t fit into the above categories.
One highlight of the West End’s new hot spot is its view of the Zakim Bridge, but the restaurant’s interior is also easy on the eyes — it feels classy, but not pretentious, making it suitable destination dining as well as a solid neighborhood spot.
The redesigned Sichuan Garden features calming mint green walls, just the right amount of tropical flora, and comfortable booths — the perfect setting for partaking in the excellent cocktail selection.
This multi-level restaurant features a lounge with a retractable roof, which will surely be a big hit next summer.
Home to Eater Boston’s 2018 Chef of the Year, John daSilva, Chickadee would be a must-try even if it didn’t look great. But it does — it’s located inside the Innovation and Design Building, after all. Like Alcove, this feels like the kind of space you’d happily travel to — it looks nice enough for a date night or special occasion — but if you lived nearby, you could also sidle up to the bar for a casual snack any night.
Chandeliers, fancy rugs, a neon “live nudes” sign pointing toward the bathroom...maybe it doesn’t feel like the type of spot where you’d wear a bib and gloves while digging into spicy bowls of boiled seafood, but that’s what it is. It feels a little bit weird and a lot of fun.
“I wanted it to look like a tobacco barn,” chef and owner Jason Cheek previously said. “A tobacco barn my grandmother invaded.” He succeeded, and he got the desired scent of pine, too.
Check out Eater.com’s national roundup of the most beautiful new restaurants of 2018 as well.