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No Relation
Reagan Byrne

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The Best Meals of 2019: No Relation, Orfano, and More

Local food writers rave about their best meals of 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.

Check out the Year in Eater landing page for other stories in this series.

Up next: What was your best (local) restaurant meal of 2019? (See the 2018 responses here.)

MC Slim JB, restaurant critic at

“I had a bunch of memorable ones, including sushi and sashimi in the first weeks of No Relation in the South End, a feast of Dongbei cuisine at Go Chi in Malden, the Kamayan dinner at Tanám at Bow Market, and a huge family-style feast at Orfano in the Fenway. My overall favorite was a late-summer farm-to-table dinner prepared by chef Andy Teixeira of Brix Restaurant / Newport Vineyards that was held outdoors at Wishing Stone Farm in Little Compton, Rhode Island: gorgeous food, wines, and setting.”

Erin Kuschner, food writer for

“It was more about standout dishes for me this year, rather than an overall meal. I had a birthday dinner at Bar Lyon, where the P.E.I. mussels were truly some of the best I’ve had in a long time. The soondubu jjigae at Kim’s Tofu sent me on a Korean stew spree, and I regularly tell people to order the avocado panna cotta at The Emory. And the tacos at Taqueria El Barrio are fantastic. ”

Jacqueline Cain, deputy food editor at Boston magazine:

“I had a few stunners. Chickadee, Orfano, Sycamore, Nightshade Noodle Bar, Simcha. I went to a Cook’s Illustrated beer dinner at Trillium Fort Point that was also great. It was a delicious year.”

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

“Oh, boy...I can’t really narrow it down to just one, unfortunately. The special Italian sub from New Deal in Revere comes to mind, as does the baked kibbee from Fairouz in West Roxbury and the chicken cutlet set from Cafe Mami in Cambridge.

Outside of the area, the traditional Quebec-style poutine at The Reservoir in Waterbury, Vermont, was...well, I can’t even describe how good it was.”

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

“Thanks to a generous wedding present from friends, my wife and I finally experienced Tasting Counter, which not only lived up to but exceeded its reputation. It sounds cheesy to say, but the nine-course tasting menu felt like a show; each dish was exciting and unpredictable (not to mention delicious). And much like a good movie, its two-hour run time seemed to fly by in minutes. ”

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

“My best restaurant meal of 2019 in Boston had to be at the Butcher Shop, when I enjoyed Barbara Lynch’s Bolognese for the first time. I’m still thinking about it!

Internationally, I was fortunate enough to dine at Niko Romito’s three-Michelin-starred Reale in the Abruzzese countryside. That has to be the best meal of my life, and the most truly farm-to-table experience I’ve ever had as well. ”

Dan Whalen, cookbook author and blogger:

“I usually have that one magical meal to list here, but this year it was more of a bunch of really great ones. Fox & the Knife, Moody’s Backroom, sitting at the bar at Island Creek, Sarma with a great group of friends, and the Bar Mezzana tasting menu for my sister’s birthday.

Also I know this is supposed to be Boston-focused, but eating spit-roasted pork on the ‘Pork Highway’ in Puerto Rico was a real highlight, as well as a work-related dinner with a large group on the terrace of the ICA in Napa Valley overlooking the vineyards.”

Katie Faust Stryjewski, cocktail Instagrammer and Eater Boston contributor:

No Relation. I adored having a front-row seat to watch Colin Lynch prepare each course of the omakase menu with such care and skill. We were able to chat with him about the inspiration behind each course and where he had sourced the ingredients. It was the most intimate and interactive dining experience I’ve had in Boston so far.”

Dana Hatic, former Eater Boston associate editor:

Chalawan. Bring friends and try everything. It’s all good. (See our map of favorite dishes of the year for more.)”

Terrence B. Doyle, Eater Boston reporter:

“In Boston? I brought a friend to Galleria Umberto for lunch one day, and just as we approached the counter it appeared as though they were about to run out of both pizza and arancini. My friend had never been before, and I’d built it up to a mythological level. I was devastated because I really wanted this friend — who loves Italian food — to experience Umberto. Just as I was about to lose all hope, they announced that there were two arancinis left and that the final tray of pizza had just come out of the oven. Best. Day. Ever.

Outside of Boston? Has to be my solo mission to Hattie B’s Hot Chicken in Nashville. Best fried chicken sandwich I’ve ever eaten (I truly don’t care what the haters have to say about this joint not being an OG, so please, don’t @ me), washed down with a couple of very good local kolsches. Very good day.”

Rachel Leah Blumenthal, Eater Boston editor:

“For the most part, my favorite meals of the year are reflected in this map that Terrence, Dana, and I put together of our favorite dishes of the year. But I’ll add emphasis to Chalawan, which I haven’t shut up about (on Eater but also to anyone unfortunate enough to approach me in person and start chatting about food, not realizing that once they get me started, I’m not going to stop).

From the moment I saw the menu, I knew I wanted to try every single dish; that doesn’t happen very often. (And I think I have tried nearly the whole menu by now, managing to go there three times in the three months it’s been open, which is another sign that I love it. Given the requirements of this job, most of my restaurant meals — aside from my local, mostly fast-casual standbys — are one-time-only affairs as I try to balance the required ‘new restaurant research’ with factors like time, money, health, and a love of home-cooking that I don’t want to lose.)

Anyway, Chalawan: I think it’s bringing something a bit new to the table, a wide survey of Southeast Asian food that doesn’t really exist in the Boston area. We have a stunning — and always improving — Thai scene (which I also never shut up about) and a traditionally great Vietnamese scene (especially in Dorchester), but Chalawan also features dishes that draw inspiration from Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, and beyond. I know, I know; when a restaurant tries to do too many things, it usually doesn’t succeed. Chalawan is one of the exceptions to the rule. Give it a try.”

Three white Asian-style soup spoons are lined up, each holding a scallop topped with caramelized duck. More plates of food are visible in the background.
Scallops at Chalawan
Rachel Leah Blumenthal/Eater


755 Beacon St, Newton, MA 02459 (617) 244-4445 Visit Website


21 Drydock Avenue, , MA 02210 (617) 531-5591 Visit Website

Bow Market

1 Bow Market Way, , MA 02143 Visit Website

Bar Lyon

1750 Washington Street, , MA 02118 (617) 904-4020 Visit Website

Galleria Umberto

289 Hanover Street, , MA 02113 (617) 227-5709 Visit Website

Tasting Counter

14 Tyler Street, , MA 02143 (617) 299-6362 Visit Website


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

No Relation

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

Cafe Mami

1815 Massachusetts Avenue, , MA 02140 (617) 547-9130 Visit Website

Nightshade Noodle Bar

73 Exchange Street, , MA 01901 (781) 780-9470 Visit Website

Trillium Brewing Company

50 Thomson Place, , MA 02210 (857) 449-0083 Visit Website

Bar Mezzana

360 Harrison Avenue, , MA 02118 (617) 530-1770 Visit Website

Kim's Tofu

160 Brighton Avenue, , MA 02134 (617) 208-8133


249 Pearl Street, , MA 02145 (617) 764-4464 Visit Website

Tanám at Bow Market

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

The Butcher Shop (Boston)

552 Tremont St., Boston, MA 02118 (617) 423-4800 Visit Website

The Backroom

468 Moody St, Waltham, MA 02453 (781) 216-8732

Fox & The Knife

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

The Emory

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

Taqueria El Barrio

401 Park Drive, , MA 02215 (617) 460-3168 Visit Website

Chalawan Asian Eatery

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

Island Creek Oyster Bar

500 Commonwealth Avenue, , MA 02215 (617) 532-5300 Visit Website