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Overhead view of a round white plate filled with bright green twists of pasta.
Campanelle al pesto di pistacchio at Fox & the Knife
Sarah Storrer/Eater

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Boston’s Top Restaurant Newcomers of 2019: Fox & the Knife, Chalawan, and More

Local food writers share their thoughts on the year

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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 next: What were the top restaurant newcomers of 2019? (See the 2018 responses here.)


MC Slim JB, restaurant critic at Boston.com:

“I reviewed most of these for The Improper or Boston.com: Orfano, Chalawan, Ilona, Peregrine, Fox & the Knife, Five Spices House Cambridge, No Relation, Table by Jen Royle (though I went in its early days, before it could serve wine), and Tanám (I particularly liked the Wednesday night Kamayan dinners, the most traditional of its three formats.)”


Erin Kuschner, food writer for Boston.com:

“I was pretty excited about the range of this year’s newcomers! If you were craving a phenomenal bowl of pasta, Orfano, Fox & the Knife, and Tony & Elaine’s all nailed it. A great burger? I ate knockout versions at The Emory, The Quiet Few, and Black Lamb. For Vietnamese food, both Ban Toi in Dorchester and Nightshade Noodle Bar in Lynn offered very different, but very excellent experiences. Jamaica Mi Hungry is one of my new go-to spots, and serves really, really good jerk chicken and coconut shrimp. And Tanám stood out for bringing both fantastic Filipino food and a very unique dining experience to Somerville.”


Jacqueline Cain, deputy food editor at Boston magazine:

Longfellow Bar. Vinal Bakery. Fox & the Knife. Nightshade Noodle Bar. Simcha Modern Israeli Cuisine.”


Marc Hurwitz, founder of Boston’s Hidden Restaurants and Boston Restaurant Talk, food writer for Dig Boston:

“My personal faves among new restaurants were probably Horse Thieves Tavern in Dedham, which actually does inventive takes on comfort food rather than just saying they do; Avenue Kitchen and Bar in Somerville’s Ball Square, which has Detroit-style pizza (and thank God there aren’t more places that serve it because I’d be 500 pounds); and A&B Burgers by North Station/TD Garden, which, by the way, is an incredibly hot area for dining right now and will probably only get hotter over the coming months.”


Eric Twardzik, freelance writer and contributor to The Food Lens, Boston.com, and Dig Boston:

“The Italian food gods were generous this year, providing a trio of distinctly different but wonderful restaurants. Tony & Elaine’s became a favorite for weeknight outings with friends, when its simple but well-executed red sauce fare, generous wine pours, and just-ironic-enough decor and soundtrack were always appreciated. Fox & the Knife upended expectations with its delicious focus on Modenese cuisine, and its cocktail program proved that you can make a damned good, original take on a Negroni with just a cordials license. And Orfano resurrected the glamour of old-school fancy Italian — waiters in white jackets, martini carts, comically large pepper mills — while serving dishes that were instantly recognizable by name yet fresh and exciting in their execution.

On a non-Italian note, I love Black Lamb for taking what I refer to as ‘John Cheever food’ — deviled eggs, steak tartare, wedge salads, baked oysters — and making it cool again. Their dirty martini, made with an olive oil and black pepper-infused vodka, was easily my favorite savory drink of the year.”


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

“Lots of great openings this year. Some of my favorites were: The Emory, Stillwater, Peregrine, Mariel, Woods Hill, FRANK, Life Alive (Boylston Street), Rochambeau, and the Oyster Club. The Emory is exactly what Beacon Hill needed, a funky, cool, new-school barroom with great food. Stillwater is my new go-to comfort food haven. A glass of wine and some snacks at the bar at Peregrine is a dream come true. Drinks at Mariel are a special occasion all on their own. Woods Hill feels different from the other high-end restaurants in the Seaport and that’s a good thing. FRANK is a well-deserved refresh for Frank McClelland; I covered his closing of L’Espalier for the Herald last year, and while it was certainly the end of an era, it was clear after dining at FRANK that he’s just getting started. The Back Bay needed Life Alive; their inventive dishes bring vegan to where it should be: real ingredients, no faux ‘burgers,’ just real flavor. Rochambeau is exactly what it should be, a French brasserie. No fuss, just classic dishes done well. I can see the potential for the Oyster Club; with their location behind the Heritage on the Garden they have a huge opportunity to create a lively patio for that neighborhood in 2020, the brunch menu just needs to be amped up. ”


Dan Whalen, cookbook author and blogger:

“It’s rare that I am truly blown away by a meal at an Italian restaurant since that is the food I grew up on, made by my mom and grandmother. That’s why I was so surprised by Fox & the Knife. Everything I tasted there was amazing. Classic yet modern at the same time and the vibe was exactly what I look for in a restaurant. We also had a great meal at Ilona, and I am really happy to welcome something new and interesting to our neighborhood. There used to be only one restaurant menu that read like a table of contents from one of my books (looking at you, Little Donkey), but thanks to Longfellow Bar, there are now two (I mean, crab rangoon nachos? Cotechino pigs in blankets? Come on!) and I have to shout out my best friend Guy Fieri and the trashcan nachos at Guy Fieri’s Tequila Cocina.”


Katie Faust Stryjewski, cocktail Instagrammer and Eater Boston contributor:

Mariel certainly belongs at the top of this list. Going there is a real experience, from the gorgeous and immersive décor to the dramatic presentation of the cocktails and food. I’ve only had a few of the dishes on the menu, but I still dream about the fufú gnocchi — I will be back soon!

Other newcomers that I really enjoyed this year were Fox & the Knife, Longfellow Bar, and the Cambridge location of Gustazo.”


Dana Hatic, former Eater Boston associate editor:

Chalawan crashed onto the scene late this year, but its selection of Southeast Asian dishes is well worth several visits. Tanám also carved out a beautiful place for itself in Bow Market, and I would include Kendall’s Shy Bird, South Boston’s Fox & the Knife, the South End’s Ilona, and Fenway’s Orfano on the list of top newcomers. Also of note for its rebirth: Tawakal in East Boston.


Rachel Leah Blumenthal, Eater Boston editor:

“My favorite newcomers this year are largely reflected in our list of finalists for the 2019 Restaurant of the Year award: Chalawan, Fox & the Knife, Gustazo, Tanám, and Tawakal Halal Cafe (which technically opened in 2018, but it was late enough in the year that it was eligible for our awards this year).

Another newcomer joined Chalawan in serving excellent Southeast Asian food this year — Mae Asian Eatery in Cambridge. I was able to return to each of them several times over the course of the year and look forward to many more visits in 2020.

Also on my list of new favorites: Goldilox Bagels in Medford.”

Overhead view of two Somali dishes on a pale peach tablecloth with white accents. One dish is chapati strips cooked in a tomato sauce with chunks of beef; the other is a beef biryani with multi-colored rice in shades of yellow and orange.
Tawakal plate (left) and beef biryani at Tawakal Halal Cafe
Rachel Leah Blumenthal/Eater

Tanám at Bow Market

1 Bow Market Wy., Suite 17, Somerville, MA 02143 (617) 669-2144 Visit Website

Mariel

10 Post Office Square, , MA 02109 (617) 333-8776 Visit Website

Mae Asian Eatery

781 Main Street, , MA 02139 (617) 354-3388 Visit Website

Longfellow Bar

40 Brattle St., Cambridge, MA 02138 Visit Website

A&B Burgers (Boston)

101 Beverly St., Boston, MA 02114 Visit Website

No Relation

11 William E Mullins Way, , MA 02118 (617) 530-1772 Visit Website

Guy Fieri's Tequila Cocina

110 Causeway St., Boston, MA 02114 Visit Website

Orfano

1391 Boylston Street, , MA 02215 (617) 916-9600 Visit Website

Fox & The Knife

28 West Broadway, , MA 02127 (617) 766-8630 Visit Website

Black Lamb

571 Tremont Street, , MA 02118 (617) 982-6330 Visit Website

Chalawan Asian Eatery

1790 Massachusetts Avenue, , MA 02140 (617) 547-8888 Visit Website

Peregrine

170 Charles Street, , MA 02114 (617) 826-1762 Visit Website

Vinal Bakery

222 Somerville Avenue, , MA 02143 (617) 718-0148 Visit Website

Life Alive (Back Bay, Boston)

431 Boylston St., Boston, MA 02116 Visit Website

The Emory

21 Beacon Street, , MA 02108 (617) 430-6325 Visit Website

Bạn Tôi Restaurant

1035 Dorchester Avenue, , MA 02125 (617) 326-6073 Visit Website

Rochambeau

900 Boylston Street, , MA 02115 (617) 247-0400 Visit Website

Five Spices House

58 Beach Street, , MA 02111 (617) 574-8888 Visit Website

Shy Bird

390 Third Street, , MA 02142 (617) 714-4200 Visit Website

The Oyster Club at the Heritage

79 Park Plaza, Boston, MA 02116 Visit Website

Avenue Kitchen & Bar

158 Boston Avenue, Somerville, MA 02144 (617) 764-0879 Visit Website

The Quiet Few

331 Sumner Street, , MA 02128 (617) 561-1061 Visit Website

Tony & Elaine's

111 North Washington Street, , MA 02114 (617) 580-0321 Visit Website

Jamaica Mi Hungry

225 Centre Street, , MA 02130 (617) 708-0465 Visit Website

Woods Hill Pier 4

300 Pier Four Boulevard, , MA 02210 (617) 981-4577 Visit Website

Goldilox Bagels

186 Winthrop Street, , MA 02155 Visit Website

Gustazo Cuban Restaurant & Cafe (Cambridge)

2067 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02140 Visit Website

ilona

783 Tremont Street, , MA 02118 (617) 207-7742 Visit Website

Stillwater

120 Kingston Street, , MA 02111 (617) 936-3079 Visit Website

Bow Market

1 Bow Market Way, , MA 02143 Visit Website

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