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A wooden steamer holds half a dozen plump soup dumplings. The steamer sits on a round white plate on a wooden table.
Soup dumplings at Dumpling Cafe
Rachel Leah Blumenthal/Eater

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Boston’s Top Restaurant Standbys of 2018: Dumpling Cafe, Bar Mezzana, and More

Local food writers discuss their regular haunts of this past year

As is Eater’s annual tradition, we’re closing out 2018 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, or hop into our Facebook group to discuss — we’ll post a thread for each survey question.

Keep an eye on the Year in Eater archive page for other stories in this series.

Up first: What were your top restaurant standbys of 2018? (See the 2017 responses here.)


MC Slim JB, restaurant critic for The Improper Bostonian:

“The reconnaissance and research required for my biweekly restaurant reviews for The Improper Bostonian don’t leave much time for discretionary dining. But when I did take the occasional night off from professional eating, I found myself at a few favorite hangouts, including J.J. Foley’s Café in the South End (my local for nearly 20 years), Island Creek Oyster Bar and the Hawthorne in Kenmore Square (for Sox pre- and post-gaming), Bar Mezzana in the South End (great Italian fare, especially the crudos, and the neighborhood’s best cocktails, now tied with their new kid sister Shore Leave), Estragon in the South End (great romantic atmosphere, fabulous Madrid-style tapas), Dumpling Café in Chinatown (it has my favorite soup dumplings in town), Sichuan Gourmet (for numbing-hot, traditional Sichuan fare), and Khao Hom Thai in Billerica (superb traditional Northern and Southern Thai).

But my number-one-with-a-bullet standby was Erbaluce in Bay Village, which does Piemontese Italian, a rarity in the US. I’ve often called it my favorite fine-dining restaurant in Boston, so was gutted to learn it is closing on New Year’s Eve, effectively a victim of gentrification. I’ve been packing in more dinners than usual there since, and will get some more before year-end. I know Chuck and Joan will land somewhere soon, but goddamn it, that was the worst dining news of the year to me.”


Jacqueline Cain, deputy food editor at Boston magazine:

Flour Dalton, Render Coffee, Chilacates, the Corner Tavern, the Behan, Parlor Sports, Row 34, Eventide Fenway.”


Erin Kuschner, food writer for Boston.com:

Exodus Bagels in Jamaica Plain became my go-to breakfast spot this year, though if you want their Everywhere bagel on the weekend (essentially an Everything bagel but with seeds on all sides) you have to get there early. Sometimes I make it, sometimes I don’t, but I love everything that comes out of their kitchen. Whenever I need a sweet treat, I find the nearest Flour and order the carrot cake. And the Brendan Behan Pub is my favorite watering hole. Their beer selection is great, and the music is on point every single time.”


Jolyon Helterman, contributing editor/food writer at Boston magazine:

“My apartment overlooks the Chinatown gate, meaning that neighborhood figures in to my weekly rotation in an outsize way. I am not complaining. This year I racked up double-digit loyalty points at Dumpling Cafe (pork soup dumplings, sizzling Sichuan-style flounder), 5 Spices House (mala anything, cumin lamb), Shojo (shadowless fries and the stupidly good stir-fried greens, of all things), China Gourmet, Great Taste Bakery, and New Shanghai. In my household, we treat Kaze, the shabu shabu joint on the corner of Essex and Harrison, less like a restaurant choice than a daily dining-mode option (“Hey, babe, you want delivery, Kaze, leftovers...?”). Once upon a time my go-to order was prime ribeye–meat bouillon–rice plus one à la carte supplement. Lately, I’ve been on a short-rib kick, plus a side of one of the homemade shrimp or fish pastes, which, when splatted down into the gurgling cauldron, immediately turn into dumpling-ish blobs that soak up the concentrated tallow-beaded broth in a super-satisfying way.

On date-night rotation: Bar Mezzana, Erbaluce, Terra, Cafe Sushi, the Butcher Shop, Branch Line, Grill 23. For impressing visiting foodies: Waypoint, Myers & Chang, O Ya, Uni, Little Donkey, Select Oyster Bar, Tiger Mama, Bisq, Saltie Girl. On delivery speed-dial: Cafe Jaffa (lamb-beef shawarma salad with house-made green zhoug!), Tiger Mama, Sweet Cheeks, Sumiao, Dumpling Cafe, Mamaleh’s, Little Donkey, Coppa, Pho Pasteur, Ruckus, Area Four.”


Eric Twardzik, contributor to The Food Lens, Boston.com, and more:

“I can’t get away from Chinatown. The wild flavors at Gene’s Flatbread continue to turn pedestrian weekday lunches into special events. (I stick to the hand-pulled noodles in spring and summer and slurp the house noodle soup all fall and winter long.) Gourmet Dumpling House and Shojo continue to be my go-to spots for group dinners or friend visits. This year I began spending more time at Dumpling Cafe (I found their soup dumplings to be slightly more manageable) and finally discovered the wonders of Wai Wai as well.

Outside of that neighborhood, I spent countless mornings at Tatte, where ever-new pastries and specials staved off potential breakfast fatigue. Select Oyster Bar was a favorite destination for date nights: I think I had their whole-roasted, “taverna style” sea bream on all but one visit. 13 years in, Toro continues to be amazing, and my girlfriend and I make a beeline for it when we’re hungry early enough to get in. And whenever I felt indulgent, I’d make it over to Drink for one of their near-perfect burgers and a Vesper.”


Marc Hurwitz, founder of Boston’s Hidden Restaurants and Boston Restaurant Talk, restaurant critic for Dig Boston, and more:

“As always, it’s tough to do repeat visits to dining and drinking spots when you’re trying to review so many places, but I did find myself going to Cagney’s in Quincy quite often (in part because they do whiskey flights and have chicken tenders smothered in cheddar cheese and bacon), and I also got to Santarpio’s in East Boston several times for their old-school pizza and Newbridge Cafe in Chelsea for their steak tips and absurdly huge steak fries/potato wedges. As for takeout, Qingdao Garden in Cambridge and the Restaurant in Woburn were a couple that I hit a number of times for their Chinese fare and Greek food, respectively.”


Oset Babur, co-founder of The Thirty-One Percent, food (and more) writer for a variety of publications, and digital strategist/editor/staff writer for Harvard Magazine:

Pammy’s: If I had a restaurant, I’d want it to feel exactly like Pammy’s. In fact, I have to actively encourage myself to go get drinks and dinner at places that aren’t just Pammy’s. I’m working on it.

Cafe Sushi: Great sushi doesn’t have to be pretentious, and Cafe Sushi figured that out. Their lunch bento box is my favorite way to treat myself at the end of a particularly rough week — it’s a ton of fresh seafood, dumplings, and miso soup for less than $15.”


J.Q. Louise, blogger at http://jqlouise.com and food writer at the Boston Herald:

“Since opening a couple years ago, Pagu has become a go-to whenever I’m craving that blend of east and west. I said it in my book, Boston Food Crawls, and I’ll say it again, ‘If you have one meal to eat in Cambridge, it must be at Pagu.’ Sitting at the bar at No. 9 Park with a plate of steak frites is always a cozy way to spend a winter’s night. Gourmet Dumpling House is one of my absolute favorite places in town: Consistent, mouth-watering dishes are exactly why I head there after a long day. And finally, Carmelina’s belly-warming Italian cuisine truly soothes the soul any day of the week.”


Sam Hiersteiner, contributor to the Boston Globe and more:

Brassica Kitchen & Cafe, Eventide Oyster Co., Waypoint, Alden & Harlow, Pammy’s, Commonwealth, Mamaleh’s, Smoke Shop BBQ, Little Big Diner, Chilacates, Sichuan Gourmet House, Woodman’s of Essex, Flour.”


Dana Hatic, associate editor of Eater Boston:

Darwin’s Ltd., Saloniki, Longfellows/Lamplighter, Moona.”


Terrence B. Doyle, reporter for Eater Boston:

“I don’t want to see how much money I spent between Deep Ellum, Lone Star, Habanero, S&I Thai, and Coreanos in 2018. My appetite is happy to have so much good food in Allston; my bank account is not.”


Rachel Leah Blumenthal, editor of Eater Boston:

“Due to the nature of the job, I don’t end up having time/appetite/budget to turn too many full-service restaurants into standbys, so my list is casual and close to home. I joke that I find myself at Somerville’s Bow Market daily, and that’s not far from the truth: I spend a fair amount of mornings drinking tea, eating pastries (from Salem’s excellent A&J King!), and using wifi at Remnant Brewing; I’d happily eat ‘nada dogs at Buenas and pizza and roast beef sandwiches at Hot Box on a near-daily basis; and I’m currently writing this on a champagne hangover from Rebel Rebel, the amazing little wine bar I’ve visited the past two nights in a row.

Outside of Bow but still in Union Square, Capone Foods is probably my most frequent lunch choice for the sandwich of the day (hint: Tuesday is meatball day); I also get to Ebi for sushi as often as I can, and Casa B for cocktails.

Outside of Union Square, my heart belongs to Thai newcomer Dakzen. I get cravings for it every day and generally manage to get there a few times a month. I also make it to Yume Ga Arukara for udon whenever I’m willing to wait in the epic line. And I’ll throw in a shoutout for my go-to cheap pizza spot, too: Newtowne Grille.”

A black bowl that has an artistic, handmade look is full of udon and thinly sliced beef in a thin brown broth. The udon is topped with chopped scallions, slivers of seaweed, and a lemon wedge. The bowl sits on a light wooden table.
Udon at Yume Ga Arukara
Rachel Leah Blumenthal/Eater

casa b

253 Washington Street, Somerville, MA 02143 617 764 2180 Visit Website

Deep Ellum

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

Great Taste Bakery & Restaurant

63 Beach Street, , MA 02111 (617) 426-8899 Visit Website

Gene's Chinese Flatbread Cafe

86 Bedford Street, , MA 02111 (617) 482-1888 Visit Website

Render Coffee

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

Corner Tavern

421 Marlborough St, Boston, MA 02115 (617) 262-5555 Visit Website

Woodman's

, , MA 01929

Parlor Sports

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

Brassica Kitchen + Cafe

3710 Washington Street, , MA 02130 (617) 477-4519 Visit Website

The Smoke Shop (Cambridge)

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

Lamplighter Brewing Co.

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

Little Donkey

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

Dakzen

195 Elm Street, , MA 02144 (617) 718-1759 Visit Website

Select Oyster Bar

50 Gloucester Street, , MA 02115 (857) 239-8064 Visit Website

Brendan Behan Pub

378 Centre Street, , MA 02130 (617) 522-5386 Visit Website

Little Big Diner

1247 Centre Street, , MA 02459 (857) 404-0068 Visit Website

Sweet Cheeks

1381 Boylston Street, Boston, MA 02215 617 266 1300 Visit Website

Estragon

700 Harrison Ave, , MA 02118 (617) 266-0443 Visit Website

Lone Star Taco Bar (Allston)

477 Cambridge Street, Allston, MA 02135 Visit Website

Tiger Mama

1363 Boylston Street, Boston, MA 02215 (617) 425-6262 Visit Website

Capone Foods

14 Bow St, Somerville, MA 02143 (617) 629-2296 Visit Website

Ruckus Noodles

5 Tyler St., Boston, MA 02111

Mamaleh's Delicatessen

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

Waypoint

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

Terra

100 State Street, , SC 29169 (803) 791-3443 Visit Website

Toro

1704 Washington Street, , MA 02118 (617) 536-4300 Visit Website

Bow Market

1 Bow Market Way, , MA 02143 Visit Website

Shojo

9A Tyler Street, , MA 02111 (617) 482-8887 Visit Website

Tatte Bakery & Cafe (Brookline)

1003 Beacon St, Brookline, MA 02446 (617) 577-1111 Visit Website

Santarpio's Pizza

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

Grill 23

161 Berkeley Street, Boston, MA 02116 617 542 2255

The Hawthorne

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

Dumpling Cafe

695 Washington Street, , MA 02111 (617) 338-8859 Visit Website

Chilacates (Amory Street - JP)

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

Coreanos

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

Myers + Chang

1145 Washington Street, Boston, MA 02118 617 542 5200 Visit Website

Drink

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

Flour Bakery + Cafe (Fort Point)

12 Farnsworth Street, Boston, MA 617 338 4333 Visit Website

Carmelina's

307 Hanover Street, , MA 02113 (617) 742-0020 Visit Website

Cafe Jaffa

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

Area Four Boston

264 East Berkeley Street, , MA 02118 (857) 317-4805 Visit Website

Sumiao Hunan Kitchen

270 Third Street, , MA 02142 (617) 945-0907 Visit Website

J.J. Foley's Cafe

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

Coppa

917 Glacier Avenue, , AK 99801 (907) 586-3500 Visit Website

Kaze Shabu Shabu

1 Harrison Avenue, , MA 02111 (617) 338-8283 Visit Website

No. 9 Park

9 Park Street, Boston, MA 02108 617 742 9991 Visit Website

Yume Ga Arukara

1815 Massachusetts Avenue, , MA 02140 Visit Website

Rebel Rebel

1 Bow Market Way, , MA 02143 (617) 721-7773 Visit Website

Newtowne Grille

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

Bisq

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

Darwin's Ltd.

1629 Cambridge St, Cambridge, MA 02138 (617) 491-2999 Visit Website

Branch Line

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

Bar Mezzana

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

Pagu

310 Massachusetts Avenue, , MA 02139 (617) 945-9290 Visit Website

Saloniki

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

Remnant Brewing

2 Bow Market Way, , MA 02143 (617) 764-0641 Visit Website

Habanero Mexican Grill

9003 East Fairview Avenue, , CA 91775 (626) 286-1914 Visit Website

Row 34

383 Congress Street, , MA 02210 (617) 553-5900 Visit Website

Erbaluce

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

Sichuan Gourmet (Brookline)

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

S & I Thai

168 Brighton Ave, Allston, MA 02134 (617) 254-8488 Visit Website

o ya

9 East Street, , MA 02111 (617) 654-9900 Visit Website

Cafe Sushi

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

Ebi Sushi

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

Pammy's

928 Massachusetts Avenue, , MA 02139 (617) 945-1761 Visit Website

Flour Bakery + Cafe (Dalton Street)

30 Dalton St., Boston, MA 02115 (857) 233-2255 Visit Website

Hot Box

1 Bow Market Way, , MA 02143 (617) 284-9600 Visit Website

Exodus Bagels

3346 Washington Street, , MA 02130 Visit Website

The Butcher Shop (Boston)

552 Tremont St., Boston, MA 02118 (617) 423-4800 Visit Website

Gourmet Dumpling House

52 Beach Street, , MA 02111 (617) 338-6223 Visit Website

Pho Pasteur (Boston)

682 Washington St, Boston, MA 02111 (617) 482-7467 Visit Website

Newbridge Cafe

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

Moona

243 Hampshire Street, , MA 02139 (617) 945-7448 Visit Website

Eventide Fenway

1321 Boylston Street, , MA 02215 (617) 545-1060 Visit Website

Woodman's of Essex

121 Main Street, , MA 01929 (978) 768-6057 Visit Website

Shojo Boston

9 Tyler Street, , MA 02111 (617) 423-7888 Visit Website

Island Creek Oyster Bar

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