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 biggest dining surprises of 2019? (See the 2018 responses here.)
MC Slim JB, restaurant critic at Boston.com:
“The continued proliferation of fast-casual chains where everything is customizable but no one has a canonical version of their product. I get the appeal of the Chipotle ‘have it your way’ model, but I also appreciate a point of view. Give me your Platonic ideal of a burger, salad, gyros, or poke bowl to start, and I’ll tweak it to my taste next time. Also, I’m in a hurry and frazzled by life: Can I just pick a couple of pizza toppings and skip the conversation with four different employees about the five dough options, seven sauces, nine cheeses, and 11 drizzles? How about you give me your best version of a basic margherita pie? Saying, ‘I want it your way’ is a total stumper at most of these places, and it shouldn’t be. Google ‘the tyranny of choice,’ people.”
Erin Kuschner, food writer for Boston.com:
“Considering everyone (including me) thought that 2019 was going to be the year of the food hall and only one (Time Out Market) opened, it was a little surprising that we still have Hub Hall, High Street Place, and a couple others on the horizon. I was also surprised at the fairly rapid rise of Mainvest, a new revenue raising platform that was used to fund a handful of 2019 openings, like Nightshade Noodle Bar, Popover King, and Brato Brewhouse.”
“Many of the most inspiring meals I had were in the suburbs: Nightshade Noodle Bar in Lynn, Simcha in Sharon, and Sycamore in Newton.”
“That more restaurants haven’t closed due to lack of workers, high rents, and the simple fact that there are just too many restaurants out there. (By the way, I have predicted 19 out of the last three restaurant crashes, so don’t listen to me.)”
“The October news that Gourmet Dumpling House had been seized by the state for unpaid taxes. In the 10 years I’ve lived in Boston, Gourmet Dumpling House has been a constant. It’s where I went at 1 a.m. with my roommates at Emerson to kill time with soup dumplings when we should have been cramming. It’s where my now-wife and I had our fist dinner. It’s still the first place I take friends and family when they visit and my de facto meeting place for old college friends that return. The shock of its surprise closure was exceeded only by the news that it miraculously reopened just 24 hours later. I’m not sure what the full story was, but please pay your taxes, Gourmet Dumpling House. ”
“With new neighborhood hangouts like the Emory and Peregrine, Beacon Hill finally feels like a dining destination again. I was constantly walking up Park Street and Charles Street for dinner again, and that’s a great feeling. Beacon Hill is back on the food scene.”
Dana Hatic, former Eater Boston associate editor:
“This is more of a broad one this year, reflected in the Eater Awards, but the sheer volume of existing businesses that either added locations or spinoffs or brand new restaurants was astounding.”
Terrence B. Doyle, Eater Boston reporter:
“For me personally? I guess I didn’t know there were as many great hand-pulled noodle shops as there are in and around Boston — until I started doing research for a story about hand-pulled noodle shops in and around Boston. There’s a bit of a scene, and it’s a very good scene, and it makes me very happy.”
Rachel Leah Blumenthal, Eater Boston editor:
“For better or worse, I didn’t have too many dining surprises this year, although I can recall a few instances when I went into a restaurant with fairly low expectations — based on early reviews, the menu, and/or other factors — and was blown away by how much I actually enjoyed the meal. I won’t name names as it would probably come across as a backhanded compliment! But those experiences remind me that I much prefer to walk into a restaurant without having obsessively researched it beforehand. With this job, that’s not always possible since I’m often reading and writing about it before the opening, but I miss being surprised. When traveling, I obsessively plot out most of our restaurant hit list ahead of time, but maybe I need to make room in my life for a bit more spontaneity and surprise.
In terms of other surprises this year, I guess I’m surprised at how many restaurants opened or will soon open in the West End. I’ve never thought of it as a dining destination — it’s a waypoint for me if I’m going to an event at the Garden or making the trek on foot from my side of Somerville to downtown Boston. But now I might actually make a special trip. I’m curious about Sound Advice, for one thing, and while not everything opening at the Hub on Causeway development sounds like it’s up my alley, I’ll surely be checking out many of the vendors at the food hall, Hub Hall, once that opens next year.”