As is Eater’s annual tradition, we’re closing out 2020 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. (Keep an eye on the Year in Eater archive page for subsequent posts in this series.)
Of course, the survey questions look a little different this year, but we wanted to continue the tradition as a way to highlight some of the restaurants that have been there for us during this extraordinarily difficult year as we look ahead to better times in 2021.
Readers, please feel free to chime in with your own thoughts by joining our Facebook group.
Up next: What was your best meal from a restaurant (not necessarily in a restaurant) in 2020?
“I didn’t do much dining out after February: I have close family members who are at high risk for Covid, so I’ve had to be exceedingly cautious. Of the dozen or so restaurant meals I allowed myself (and only for outdoor dining), I’d call it a tie between two: a summer dinner on the sidewalk patio at Estragon in the South End, and an autumn dinner on the back patio of Audubon Bar near Kenmore Square, both times with my extended family pod. A gorgeous meal of traditional Madrid-style tapas, terrific cocktails, and fabulous Spanish wines at Estragon, and some classic pub fare (notably a life-affirming burger) with great cocktails and beers at Audubon, both served up with their consistent, exceptionally friendly hospitality. Those were the two moments that felt most like echoes of my pre-pandemic life: the normalcy and conviviality and joy of dining and drinking in a favorite restaurant with people I love.”
“Probably the otherworldly Cuban stew from Stillwater in downtown Boston pre-pandemic, or the Thankful Clucker from Jenna’s in Weymouth during the pandemic (fried chicken, cranberry-apple stuffing, mayo, cranberry sauce on a grilled brioche roll — pure heaven).”
Joel Ang, staff writer for The Infatuation:
“I dined indoors at Kim’s Tofu in Allston early on when restaurants reopened, and we were the only guests in the whole restaurant. Every single dish, from the homemade tofu to the kalbi to the grilled mackerel, was fantastic.”
Joel encourages readers to consider donating to Boston Chinatown Neighborhood Center.
“My favorite meal of the year was actually a recent one. Mamma Maria in the North End has wine dinners each Monday where they partner with a winemaker to craft a unique menu. This past Monday their wine menu included their take on a duck confit, a perfect polenta, a creamy-truffle-topped cacio e pepe, and venison two ways, all paired with some fabulous Spinetta wines. The ambiance, service, and food were truly five-star, and in a year with few things to look forward to, I’m already planning when to head back to Mamma Maria’s.”
J.Q. encourages readers to consider donating to Project Restore Us.
“In November, my wife and I decided to at last experience the tasting menu at No.9 Park. It was that kind of meal where the rest of the world ceases to exist while you’re experiencing it, and a reminder of the rare magic that a restaurant and its staff can achieve while operating at the top of their game. But it was also a reminder of what might be lost if our elected officials allowed independent restaurants to wither on the vine without relief.”
“Dumpling House in Newton. Nothing beats comfort food. For me, that comes usually in dumpling form. Soup dumplings, Shandong-style, pork and leek...this list goes on. Add an additional appetizer and a noodle dish, and you have yourself a weighted blanket’s worth of a meal. Stay cozy, friends.”
Samer encourages readers to consider donating to MassUndocuFund.
“I’ve never really had Scandinavian food before, but in March I made it to Real in Lincoln and had an amazing dinner of Danish open-faced sandwiches with pork meatballs, yogurt, and cranberry on this beautiful house-made dense rye bread. Along with mushroom toast with cheese fondue and pickled cabbage, and maybe the best apple tart I’ve ever eaten. It was pretty surreal because I got to talk with the chefs/owners in their buzzy neighborhood restaurant about their food and connection to the community, and then literally days later everything shut down.”
Nathan encourages readers to consider donating to Restaurant Worker Mutual Aid of Greater Boston and your local community fridges.
“This is so hard to answer. The year is a total blur of takeout and delivery — much of it quite good! Is there one truly memorable meal I’d call the best? I’ll mention a few highlights, because I think there are different bests for different moods.
There’s the first pepperoni pizza we got from our casual, reliable, beloved Newtowne Grille in Cambridge the night it finally reopened after months of closure. There’s the fancy date-night splurge, a steak dinner we got delivered from Mooo that held up remarkably well on the trip to our apartment and arrived perfectly rare, as hoped. There’s the incredible takeout we got from Jamaica Mi Hungry in Jamaica Plain on my birthday over the summer, which we ate with a couple friends — at a distance — after walking around the Arboretum.
And there’s the bittersweet best: the final meal we had inside a restaurant days before the shutdown in March and weeks before it would really become clear what the restaurant industry, and the world, was in for. We had a lovely evening at Tambo 22, newly opened in Chelsea — there was ceviche, paixe, lomo saltado, booze — and there was no real hint of what was to come.
With winter coming, the pandemic still raging, and a newborn arriving any day now, I feel like I may never make it back inside a restaurant, at least not in the foreseeable months, so I’m glad my last restaurant meal for the time being was a fantastic one. I look forward to continuing to support restaurants as much as I can via takeout and delivery in the dark and difficult months to come.”