Lately, there has been talk of Boston’s dining scene being in a bit of a rut — snubbed by national awards, even boring. As Eater’s own national critic Bill Addison told The Boston Globe, the city currently isn’t stacking up to others that “feel energized from within and are putting forth something that feels fresh for the regional and national conversation.”
But while it may not be readily apparent to the outside world — and while Boston’s dining scene is undeniably facing its fair share of challenges, from the never-ending labor shortage to the always-increasing rents — there is excitement to be found here, old and new.
As this piece is about anticipated openings, let’s set aside discussion of the worthy old guard for now: the city’s essential spots; Boston’s neighborhood specialties, from roti in Dorchester to cannoli in the North End to Caribbean in Jamaica Plain; iconic dishes all over.
Looking at the more recent openings, sure, there are some alarming trends, with big out-of-town chains aggressively moving into town and smaller, independent spots having a hard time opening up. But below the surface, there is some magic: a tiny udon shop with a tiny menu, located in what is essentially a college food court, that commands hours-long waits (and yes, some national attention). A bright and bubbly little Peruvian spot from first-time restaurant owners, serving up irresistible ceviche and lomo saltado. A casual Thai joint offering fiery, excellent dishes that are shifting local diners’ expectations about what Thai food can be. An intimate wine bar — a winning sequel to another intimate wine bar — featuring female wine producers and introducing drinkers to unusual and intriguing wines. A lovely fine-dining restaurant that feels homey, not stuffy, in an age where fine-dining is continuously being abandoned or redefined. A hospitable American trattoria that seamlessly blends Italy with Cambridge. A New England homage to French Canada.
The last year or so has included the debut of those gems and more, and Boston diners can be cautiously optimistic about the coming season as well. Here’s the rundown on some upcoming restaurant openings to watch. (Keep in mind, as always, that projected restaurant opening timelines can and often do change significantly. In other words, don’t try to make a fall reservation for any of these spots just yet.)
Independent Openings in Boston
While many of the upcoming openings are expansions of existing restaurants or restaurant groups (more on those in a bit), a few local industry vets are striking out on their own for the first time and opening something entirely new.
Kamakura, for one, will introduce Boston to contemporary kaiseki cuisine, multi-course Japanese meals that feature beautiful plating and seasonal ingredients. Boston’s existing high-end Japanese dining scene is much more focused on sushi, although kaiseki isn’t entirely unheard of. Oishii, for example, offers a lunchtime kaiseki menu.
Kamakura owner Youji Iwakura is an alum of Snappy Ramen, Uni, Basho, and more. When he first announced plans for Kamakura back in late 2016, he told Eater that he wanted to serve “more than just sushi, teriyaki, tempura, or what people call traditional Japanese food,” instead bringing “renaissance to current Japanese cuisine in Boston” with a restaurant that crosses street food with kaiseki cuisine, making “fine-dining food accessible and casual-dining food sexier.”
Longtime Myers + Chang alum Karen Akunowicz — a James Beard winner, a Top Chef alum, and a cookbook author — is also opening her own place this fall. Fox and the Knife will be an “Italian-inspired neighborhood enoteca” in South Boston, opening in the former Maiden space. While Akunowicz has been working primarily with Asian food for the last seven years, she previously spent a year learning pasta-making in Modena, Italy, and also worked at Michael Schlow’s now-defunct Italian restaurant in Back Bay, Via Matta. At Fox and the Knife, which will seat 75, she wants to serve an affordable menu that offers “something for everyone.” Expect plenty of house-made pasta, including an homage to tortellini en brodo.
And one more industry vet opening his first solo spot this fall: Tom Schlesinger-Guidelli (Island Creek Oyster Bar, Eastern Standard, Craigie on Main). He’ll open Alcove at the Lovejoy Wharf condominium building on the edge of the North and West ends. He’s been quiet on the details since the initial announcement, but recent job postings describe the forthcoming spot as a “bustling New England farm-to-table restaurant” that will feature products from “the best local food purveyors,” as well as a “highly curated wine list” and a “dynamic cocktail program.”
• Kamakura, 150 State St., Downtown Boston. Projected opening: early fall 2018
• Fox and the Knife, 28 W. Broadway, South Boston. Projected opening: late fall 2018
• Alcove, 50 Lovejoy Wharf, West End/North End, Boston. Projected opening: fall 2018
More Locations of Local Favorites Around Boston, Cambridge, and Somerville
The remainder of 2018 will be marked by many expansions of existing restaurants, partially thanks to the opening of food courts/halls/markets like the Smith Campus Center at Harvard University and Bow Market in Somerville.
The Smith Center, which will roll open bit by bit from late August into early September, will feature new locations of Blackbird Doughnuts, Saloniki, Whole Heart Provisions, and more. (And this isn’t the only Blackbird Doughnuts in the works — the South End and Fenway doughnut shop will also expand to Brighton by the end of the year.)
Bow Market, meanwhile, is already partially open, with a brewery and cafe, a macaron shop, a pierogi shop, and an empanada shop all up and running, along with a number of non-food vendors. But coming up in the final weeks of summer and into the fall, the rest will open, and most are expansions of already-existing local favorites.
Highlights include Hot Box, which comes from the team behind Bay Village sandwich shop Mike & Patty’s; it will feature North Shore-style roast beef sandwiches and South Shore-style bar pizzas. Downtown fry shop Saus is opening a vegetarian version of itself at Bow Market as well. Plus, Louis DiBiccari (Tavern Road, Humaari) is opening a brick-and-mortar version of his popular Create event series, and Aeronaut-based chocolate counter Gâté Comme des Filles is getting its own space, as is Filipino pop-up Tanám.
Another exciting forthcoming Bow opening, although not part of an existing group, is Rebel Rebel, a natural wine bar from wine professional and writer Lauren Friel (who is an Eater Boston alum).
Beyond the Smith Center and Bow Market, there are even more expansions to watch for in the coming months: Mortadella Head, an Italian-American deli and pizza shop from the Boston Burger Co. team, will open soon in Davis Square. Weston’s Dumpling Daughter is expanding to Cambridge and sharing space with forthcoming sister restaurant — the owners are literally sisters — Vester, an all-day European cafe. Waltham Cuban restaurant Gustazo is also expanding to Cambridge. And popular Jamaica Plain taqueria Chilacates is expanding just about everywhere (Chestnut Hill, Mission Hill, the South End).
Plus, the team behind Mistral (and more) is still working on opening Bar Lyon in the South End. Alden & Harlow will get an upstairs sibling, the Longfellow Bar, in the former Cafe Algiers space in Harvard Square. Beverly’s A&B Burgers is expanding to Boston proper, right by TD Garden. Love Art Sushi will get an udon spinoff, Love Art Udon, in Packard’s Corner. Liquid Art House will complete its transformation into Nahita. The Bar Mezzana team will open a Tiki bar called Shore Leave in the South End.
And Boston’s cafe/bakery chains will keep going strong, too. Tatte will keep expanding everywhere, including the Seaport District and Downtown Boston (not to mention the Northeastern location opening this week), while Flour Bakery + Cafe is also heading to the Seaport.
• Smith Campus Center at Harvard University (Blackbird Doughnuts, Saloniki, Whole Heart Provisions, and more), 1350 Massachusetts Ave., Harvard Square, Cambridge. Projected opening: late August/early September 2018 (rolling opening)
• Bow Market (Hot Box, Saus, Create Gallery & Cocktail Lounge, Gâté Comme des Filles, Tanám, Rebel Rebel, and more), 1 Bow Market Way, Union Square, Somerville. Projected opening: partially open already, but the rest will come in late summer and fall 2018 (rolling opening)
• Mortadella Head, 20 College Ave., Davis Square, Somerville. Projected opening: imminent
• Dumpling Daughter and Vester, 73 Ames St., Kendall Square, Cambridge. Projected opening: summer/fall 2018
• Gustazo Cuban Restaurant & Cafe, 2067 Massachusetts Ave., Porter Square, Cambridge. Projected opening: fall 2018
• Chilacates, 1480 Tremont St., Mission Hill, Boston; 33 Boylston St., the Street, Chestnut Hill; 275 Shawmut Ave., South End, Boston. Projected openings: Mission Hill and Chestnut Hill are imminent, and a timeline for the South End location hasn’t been announced yet
• Bar Lyon, 1750 Washington St., South End, Boston. Projected opening: September 2018
• The Longfellow Bar at Alden & Harlow, 40 Brattle St., #3, Harvard Square, Cambridge. Projected opening: soon
• A&B Burgers, 101 Beverly St., West End, Boston. Projected opening: September 2018
• Love Art Udon, 1024 Commonwealth Ave., Packard’s Corner, Boston. Projected opening: summer/fall 2018
• Nahita, 100 Arlington St., Back Bay, Boston. Projected opening: summer/fall 2018
• Shore Leave, 345 Harrison Ave., South End, Boston. Projected opening: fall 2018
• Tatte Bakery & Cafe, 200 Pier 4 Blvd., Seaport District, Boston; 125 Summer St., Downtown Boston. Projected openings: September 5, 2018, in the Seaport District; fall 2018 downtown
• Flour Bakery + Cafe, 1 Design Center Pl., Seaport District, Boston. Projected opening: summer 2018
For better or worse, Boston is seeing a lot of out-of-town chains come in, some more welcome than others. There are a few highlights on the horizon, including fast-casual, chicken-focused Momofuku sibling Fuku, opening later this year in the Seaport.
Also from the David Chang camp, Milk Bar is combining forces with DC-based pizza chain &pizza to open a dual location in Cambridge’s Harvard Square. (Milk Bar, which was founded by Christina Tosi, is part of Chang’s Momofuku group, although the companies operate separately.)
And California-based Tender Greens, a chain with backing from Shake Shack founder Danny Meyer, will add to its Boston-area presence — there’s already a location in Chestnut Hill — with an outpost in Back Bay.
• Fuku, 43 Northern Ave., Seaport District, Boston. Projected opening: 2018
• &pizza x Milk Bar, 1394 Massachusetts Ave., Harvard Square, Cambridge. Projected opening: 2018
• Tender Greens, 100 Huntington Ave., Back Bay, Boston. Projected opening: November 2018
Potential Suburban Stunners
Outside the bounds of Boston proper and its across-the-river siblings Cambridge and Somerville, keep an eye out for the Medford debut of Goldilox, a bagel shop that will serve bagel sandwiches, bagel pizza, and more. Also in Medford, the team behind the casual Tenoch restaurant and truck group will open a sit-down restaurant and tequila bar, El Tacuba. And that’s not all for Medford: The Porch, a Southern restaurant previously located in Wakefield, is relocating to Medford, where the bigger space will include outdoor seating, live music, and a retail market.
While Medford may end up being the hotspot for fall 2018 restaurant openings, Watertown has something exciting coming up as well: Country Mile, a restaurant that will prominently feature vegetables, grains, and seafood (mostly from New England), along with natural wines, local beers, classic cocktails, and a “unique” selection of mezcal, bourbon, and gin.
• Goldilox, 186 Winthrop St., Medford. Projected opening: fall 2018
• El Tacuba, 35 Salem St., Medford Square Projected opening: 2018
• The Porch, 100 Rivers Edge Dr., Medford. Projected opening: late 2018
• Country Mile, 136 Belmont St., Watertown. Projected opening: summer/fall 2018
Boston’s beer scene is going wild, and a number of new (or newly expanded) breweries could open up in and around the city in the coming months.
Trillium Brewing may have its new Fort Point home up and running by the end of the year, a multi-level brewery, taproom, and restaurant (featuring wood-fired cooking), potentially with a roof deck as well.
Everett-based Night Shift also has a Boston proper project in the works: a 12,000-square-foot brewery and taproom at Lovejoy Wharf, featuring waterfront patio seating, cafe and retail space, and a lot of exclusive pours available only at this location.
Also in Boston, Backlash Beer Co. is opening its Roxbury taproom imminently, and Bruno’s Brewing (from the Boston Winery team) could open this fall in Dorchester. Plus, Brato Brewhouse & Kitchen is working on its permanent space in Brighton while also popping up at numerous events around town with sausages and more.
Outside of the city, contract brewer Mighty Squirrel Brewing Co. is opening its own 23,000-square-foot brewery and taproom (two taprooms, actually) in Waltham. The space will include two patios, a 30-barrel brewing system, and an additional five-barrel system for experimentation.
In Quincy, Rewild — one of the first vegan beer halls in the country — will open soon, and it will function as a cafe in the mornings before turning into a beer hall in the afternoons and evenings.
Malden also has a couple breweries in the works, Mystic Brewery (out of Chelsea) and Faces Brewing Co., but neither has announced an opening timeline yet and might not debut this year.
• Trillium Brewing, 50 Thomson Pl., Fort Point, Boston. Projected opening: 2018
• Night Shift Brewing, Lovejoy Wharf, West End/North End, Boston. Projected opening: October/November 2018
• Backlash Beer Co., 152 Hampden St., Roxbury, Boston. Projected opening: any day now
• Bruno’s Brewing, 24 Ericsson St., Dorchester, Boston. Projected opening: fall 2018
• Brato Brewhouse & Kitchen, 190 N. Beacon St., Brighton, Boston. Projected opening: 2018
• Mighty Squirrel Brewing Co., 411 Waverley Oaks Rd., Waltham. Projected opening: fall 2018
• Rewild, 1546 Hancock St., Quincy. Projected opening: any day now