As is Eater’s annual tradition, we’re closing out 2019 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.
Keep an eye on the Year in Eater landing page for other stories in this series, rolling out over the next several days.
Up first: What were your top restaurant standbys of 2019? (See the 2018 responses here.)
MC Slim JB, restaurant critic at Boston.com:
“I had a four-month break between the shuttering of The Improper Bostonian and my new gig at Boston.com, so I had more me-time than usual. My favorites included Celeste, Blossom Bar, Five Spices House in Central Square, Rebel Rebel at Bow Market, Chickadee, Sei Bar in Wakefield (very traditional Hunanese), Nathálie, Sarma, and the late-night menu at Tasting Counter. In my own South End neighborhood, I spent the most time at J.J. Foley’s Café, Bar Lyon, Estragon, Anchovies, Whaling in Oklahoma, and Union Park Pizza.”
Erin Kuschner, food writer for Boston.com:
“It’s always hard to answer this question, since a lot of this job dictates trying new spots most of the time. But I went to my neighborhood Chilacates more times than I can count — they expanded quite a bit this year. I was a frequent visitor at Gantetsu-Ya in Brookline, and I took every single one of my friends to Shore Leave after it opened in November last year (if you haven’t been to their Sippin’ Santa pop-up yet, I highly recommend it.) And Tiger Mama served as my go-to Fenway spot this year; I feel like it just keeps getting better every time I visit.”
- “This was the first year I rang in at Parlor Sports, a perennial favorite on account of it being the best bar. It still rules!
- SRV. Love their monthly cicchetti takeover series with guest chefs and free snacks.
- Chilacates. Three new locations in 2019, they’re all good.
- Bow Market. Chiefly Rebel Rebel Wine Bar, Buenas, and Gate Comme des Filles chocolates. Even though it’s truly horrible for most of us to get there (c’mon, GLX!), my boyfriend and I find ourselves there frequently (from JP), saying hi to friends and tasting through what’s new.
- The Brendan Behan Pub. Can you imagine what it will be like with a patio??
- Render Coffee South End. Flour Dalton. Pavement Symphony. The holy trinity of breakfast and lunch fuel for me.”
“As always, it’s tough for me to have a regular hangout because I check out so many restaurants for reviews, but I did spent a bit of time at The Restaurant in Woburn for their excellent (and cheap) Greek food, Cagney’s in Quincy for their whiskey flights and pub grub, and Caffe Vittoria in the North End for their cappuccino and biscotti.”
“The near-death experience of Gourmet Dumpling House has me appreciating it more than ever. I continue to stand in line at Yume Ga Arukara (and keep waiting for those lines to grow shorter, which may never happen), and survived another winter thanks to Gene’s Flatbread, which happened to debut its first new menu item in years — a hot and sour dumpling soup. I also discovered Dakzen this year, which has re-introduced me to flavors I haven’t experienced since I visited Thailand.”
“My go-tos lately have been the Butcher Shop, Aqua Pazza, Salty Pig, and Oak Long Bar. I rediscovered the Butcher Shop this year, and I have to say that Barbara Lynch does the best rendition of Bolognese in town. And of course, the ribeye is always on point as well, but the Bolognese is one of those dishes you’ll be thinking about days later, persuading you to come back again. Another surprising craving I’ve had is Aqua Pazza’s burger. Always cooked to perfection, the delightful balance between the truffle aioli and the red onion jam is such a unique flavor, it’s become my favorite burger in town. Salty Pig has remained the best casual-cool hangout for when you just want some charcuterie and a glass of wine. And finally, I just love what Chef Lockwood has done at Oak Long Bar over the past few years. His shareable, locally sourced menu is the perfect fit for the space and is what keeps me coming back again and again.”
“My restaurant happy place will always be sitting at the bar at SRV. We live nearby, so it’s on the way home from anywhere. Stopping in for a nightcap, a few snacks, and one of Meg’s unique and ever changing desserts is a common occurrence for us. We also spent a fair amount of time having drinks and late-night snacks at Shore Leave. I guess we like drinks and late-night snacks?”
“I have a two-year-old, so my husband and I are always looking for kid-friendly places where we can still get really good food and drinks. Pastoral in Fort Point has become our go-to for this. It’s a family-friendly spot that still checks all our boxes: The pizza and pasta are absolutely fantastic, the beer list is long, and the cocktails are well-crafted and creative.
And when it comes to takeout, Chilacates reigns supreme. I’m quite positive I ate more grilled shrimp tortas in 2019 than any other food, a trend that is sure to continue into 2020.”
Dana Hatic, former Eater Boston associate editor:
“One of the best things about the Boston area is that your neighborhood places are just that — spots you’ll visit time and time again because they’re close to home and they’re so, so good. In some cases, mine repeat from year to year: Punjabi Dhaba, Olecito, and Pita are all solid Inman Square establishments, as is Trina’s. New this year is Bow Market, where I usually end up getting something from Saus or Buenas and beverages from Rebel Rebel, Remnant, or Create upstairs.”
Terrence B. Doyle, Eater Boston reporter:
“I eat in Allston and Chinatown more than I do in any other neighborhoods. The Super 88 food hall is a constant source of nourishment. I mostly used to slurp on a big bowl of pho at Pho Viet’s whenever I went to Super 88, but the addition of Silk Road Express means Uyghur food — and especially hand-pulled noodles — occupies as much or more of my attention these days. And while Chinatown is without a question the city’s best food neighborhood, I am a creature of habit and almost always eat at Dumpling Cafe when I’m in that part of town. I probably ate 20 orders of their Taiwan-style pan-fried dumplings in 2019.”
Rachel Leah Blumenthal, Eater Boston editor:
“As some of the others noted above, the nature of the job makes it difficult to be a regular at too many places as most of my dining out is taken up with checking out new places. That said, I ate many a meal in my own neighborhood, Union Square in Somerville, which has been, in my opinion, one of the Boston area’s best dining neighborhoods for a few years now. In my fairly regular rotation: Bow Market, especially Hot Box (where I love the pizza and roast beef equally); Casa B, especially for cocktails at the street-level bar; Celeste (well, when I can manage to get a reservation, anyway!); and Ebi Sushi, where I can’t get enough of the torched salmon.
Beyond Union, my 2018 obsession with Dakzen continued throughout 2019. I think I ate more Thai food than anything else in 2019 (I went to Thailand in February, fueling my obsession) and worked my way around the Boston-area Thai food scene, finding lots to love, but always leaning on Dakzen as my number one. I also explored the broader Southeast Asian food scene in the Boston area, falling in love with Cambridge newcomers Mae Asian Eatery and Chalawan — I’ll be raving more about those in one of the other survey questions.
And of course I can’t forget Newtowne Grille, my reliable pizza takeout joint for the better part of the last decade.”