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 next: What were the top restaurant newcomers of 2018? (See the 2017 responses here.)
I mostly review brand-new restaurants for The Improper, and 2018 produced a bunch of really fine ones. My favorites from a very strong field include Celeste (for its lovely Peruvian, chifa, and nikkei cuisine in a super-charming, pocket-sized space in Union Square, Somerville); Bar Lyon (for very traditional Lyonnaise cuisine and atmosphere in the South End); Nathálie (for great, mostly-natural, mostly made-by-women wines from the Haley.Henry folks, plus perfect snacks to go with it); Chickadee (for inventive food and great cocktails in the last undeveloped corner of the Seaport); Shore Leave (for craft-level Tiki cocktails, a genre I have long loved, in a gorgeous room hidden away in a South End basement); the new Home Taste in Arlington (for central-Chinese hand-pulled noodles and “Chinese hamburgers”); Nahita (for bringing the Back Bay a much-needed serious bar program and lovely, mostly Peruvian fare to one of the most gorgeous new rooms in the city); and Alcove (for the overdue addition of the kind of welcoming-to-all-comers space to the area around TD Garden that Eastern Standard has long provided to Fenway-area sports fans and food/drink nerds alike.)
Jacqueline Cain, deputy food editor at Boston magazine:
“Bow Market, Oisa Ramen, Alcove, Fool’s Errand, the summer of the beer garden. Also, so many pop-ups and events, like Asta’s wine education ‘happy hours,’ and Meadowlark Butcher’s outrageously delicious sausages.”
“Bow Market as a whole really did an excellent job curating every single dining experience there: The bluefish paté bagel sandwich [at Hooked Fish Shop] is a knockout, I loved the empanadas at Buenas, and the pizza at Hot Box is *chef’s kiss.* Alcove in the West End was also a standout for me, with a really fantastic burger and cocktails that are worth the trip alone. And I had a memorable experience at Chickadee, though I need to come back for a full meal instead of just drinks and small bites.”
“Terrific freshman class, including Celeste, Chickadee, Fool’s Errand, Southern Proper, and Talulla. I haven’t made it to Alcove or Dakzen yet. For me, the most intriguing opening was probably Tim Maslow’s Whaling in Oklahoma, where I need to spend more quality time but am already partial to the crispy-skinned salt-grilled fish du jour chased with cleansing radish and rhubarb, the sensational crudo creations (see: charred mackerel, radish sprouts, truffle ponzu), the less-is-more brilliance of the cocktails, and the vertiginous frisson of not being 100 percent sure whether the place is channeling the edgy, reliably exhilarating, occasionally uneven free-form downtown-Manhattan genius of Momofuku Ko’s next-door watering hole — or an epic Punk’d-style trolling of Boston’s entire dining scene (Finding culinary sophistication in Beantown is like....et cetera). But either way, count me as down for the big reveal.”
“Cusser’s Roast Beef & Seafood was a wonderful and weird addition to Back Bay that deserved more attention. Eating their tarragon-mayo lobster roll in the Public Garden was a treat on a couple of summer days. I admired the Spartan restraint of Davis Square’s Tsurumen, which removed all would-be distractions from space and menu to deliver a handful of perfect ramen bowls. The trendy-minimalist interior of Celeste camouflaged its honest and unfussy take on Peruvian cooking, and the dish of salty corn nuts on each table proved the best gratis dish of the year.”
“Zo opened its Assembly Row location toward the end of 2017, but if it’s ok to consider it a 2018 opening, that was one of my favorite new spots, as the Greek food there (and in particular the gyros) are tremendous. Also, Grape Leaf in Newton Highlands is also very impressive for its Greek and Mediterranean food (do you see a theme here?)”
“Shore Leave: Here’s my advice: Round up a group of friends on a Friday night, go in, and order the duck (it serves five to six people, comfortably). Also, order a few of the large-format cocktails. You’ll have so much fun that you’ll most likely forget to Instagram your night.
Rebel Rebel: I’m obsessed with Bow Market, and Rebel Rebel is my go-to neighborhood spot for a cozy night out with friends. It’s one of those spots where I can be honest about how little I know about wine and not feel dumb — the awesome folks behind the bar just get it.
Fool’s Errand: Chef Tiffani Faison’s stretch of Boylston Street is the Good Place — Fool’s Errand makes that much official.”
Sam Hiersteiner, contributor to the Boston Globe and more:
“If we call 2018 the first solid year of operation, I love Momi Nonmi in Cambridge. A proper smashing together of surprising boozes and salty Asian bites.”
“Blossom Bar tops my list. They kept all that was great about Sichuan Garden (namely the hot dry chicken, dan dan noodles, and house eggplant) while creating this slick bar.”
“I feel so lucky to have exceptional newcomers Celeste and Bow Market so close to home — Union Square really got lucky this year. (It even has a new ax-throwing bar, for better or worse.) And I absolutely adore Dakzen over in Davis Square; it’s part of a small but growing collection of local Thai restaurants that go well beyond the stereotypical Thai-American takeout experience.
Somerville had a really good year, and I’m not just writing that because I live there. But there were plenty of excellent newcomers in Boston proper as well: Chickadee is a strong debut in all respects — the food, the drinks, the hospitality, the space. Whaling in Oklahoma brings something fun and new to the table. Oisa Ramen is tiny and friendly and wonderful. I can’t wait to spend more time at Shore Leave (I will never get tired of Tiki bars opening up.) Bar Lyon is as great as you’d expect from the team behind longtime classics like Mistral (don’t miss the French onion soup.) Nathálie and Fool’s Errand have helped continue the evolution of Fenway’s dining scene, which, over the past few years, has increasingly become a spot for destination dining, not just a place to grab a beer before a Sox game. Ok, it’s probably more than the last ‘few’ years, but you get the point — Fenway just keeps getting better and better. And Alcove already feels like a well-oiled machine two months in.”