Today, we’re excited to announce the winners of the 2019 Eater Awards, celebrating the chefs and new restaurants that made a major impact on the dining scene this year. In each of Eater’s cities, including here in Boston, the local editorial staff chose finalists and ultimately a winner in each of three categories, taking into account nominations submitted by readers over a monthlong period. Restaurants had to have opened in the past year (including the last few months of 2018) to be eligible and must be located in Eater Boston’s standard geographic radius, which covers Boston proper and a few adjacent or near-adjacent towns and cities, including but not limited to Cambridge, Somerville, and Brookline. The winners will each be receiving a traditional Eater tomato can trophy and a feature story in the coming year.
Please join us in celebrating this year’s incredible group of winners. Without further ado, here they are.
Restaurant of the Year
1 Bow Market Way, Bow Market, Union Square, Somerville
It’s risky opening any restaurant — but some restaurant openings deviate a step or two from the standard formula and thus feel even riskier, which makes their success that much more satisfying to see. Tanám is one of the risk-takers: There are many unconventional elements to it, and they all come together to form one of the most unique restaurants in town. (And perhaps most importantly: The food is incredible.)
The restaurant serves what it describes as Filipinx American cuisine, a rarity (sadly) in the Boston area. Most of Tanám’s services are reservations-required, prepaid affairs at what some would consider special occasion pricing; some of these dinners are “coursed storytelling,” in which the dishes illuminate elements of Filipinx history and culture, and some of these dinners are utensils-free, with food items spread along a giant banana leaf, ready to be grabbed. The space is tiny, and the meals are communal — and not just communal in that you’re sitting next to strangers at a table but otherwise keeping to yourself. You can’t help but interact with, and possibly befriend, your new neighbors. And to top things off, Tanám is worker-owned.
Ellie Tiglao (chef and art director, and a 2018 Eater Young Guns semifinalist), Sāsha Coleman (chef and kitchen manager), and Kyisha Davenport (bar director and front-of-house manager) are at the helm.
Additional Restaurant of the Year Finalists
Design of the Year
10 Post Office Sq., downtown Boston
Whenever COJE Management Group opens a restaurant, it’s a given that it will be beautiful. (In fact, the group won this same award in 2017 for the Fort Point location of Lolita.) The newest addition to the group, the Cuban-inspired Mariel, is no exception.
The gorgeous restaurant has a vibe of lived-in glamour — enormous, eye-catching light fixtures dangle from the high ceilings (the space used to be home to a bank), while the walls are covered with graffiti-style murals. The tables and floors feature elaborate tiling, and lush greenery sprouts up along the walls to complement the otherwise muted color palette. It’s evident that someone has paid careful attention to the design of every square inch.
As COJE managing partner Chris Jamison previously told Eater: “At the end of the day, we’re not just trying to feed you; we want to make you feel a certain way ... Dinner is the new night out, not something you do before a night out.”
And lest you fear that the restaurant is all style, no substance, rest assured that the food is certainly worthy of its attractive home. Don’t miss the Havanese lamb belly and fufu gnocchi.
Additional Design of the Year Finalists
Empire Builders of the Year
Tiffani Faison and Kelly Walsh
Tiffani Faison has long been a familiar name in the Boston culinary scene (and not just because of a second-place run on the first season of Top Chef and appearances on various Top Chef spinoffs). After working for chefs such as Todd English and Daniel Boulud locally and beyond, Faison took over the kitchen at Rocca in Boston’s South End, gaining local acclaim as she revitalized the menu and earned glowing reviews.
In 2011, Faison began to build her own empire, opening Sweet Cheeks — a full-service barbecue joint with heritage meats and unbelievably good biscuits — in Fenway, a neighborhood that at the time was lacking many dining options aside from sports bars. Since then, she and partner Kelly Walsh have essentially taken over a block of the neighborhood, opening Southeast Asia-inspired Tiger Mama and adult snack bar Fool’s Errand, while also inspiring overall change in the area. It’s now full of excellent dining and drinking options alongside Fenway’s traditional sports bar scene, and it’s clear that Faison and Walsh’s efforts have been a major factor in the revitalization of the neighborhood.
This year, their restaurant group — Big Heart Hospitality — grew again, still in Fenway, with Orfano, a restaurant that pairs impeccable service and pleasurable renditions of Italian-American cuisine with a cheeky-yet-beautifully-designed vibe.
And that’s not all: Come winter, Faison and Walsh will grow their group beyond the bounds of Fenway, opening two new restaurants at a forthcoming downtown Boston food hall.
Additional Empire Builders of the Year Finalists
Colin Lynch, Heather Kennaway Lynch, Jefferson Macklin, Ben Kaplan, and Ryan Lotz (Shore Leave, Black Lamb, and more); JC and Esther Tetreault (Trillium Brewing Company); Rebecca Roth Gullo (The Gallows, Blackbird Doughnuts, and more); Socrates Abreu (Chilacates)
Congratulations to all of the 2019 winners and finalists, and thank you to the many readers who took the time to send in nominations. Stay tuned for more year-end coverage as 2019 draws to a close, and be sure to email us if there are any exciting 2020 openings coming up that should be on our radar.