To wrap up the year, Eater Boston polled both local journalists and readers of this site to get their thoughts on the past year in dining: the good, the bad, and the most exciting things still to come in 2023. The results have been collected in the following series of posts. (Check out the full archive here.)
Below, we ask: What was your best restaurant meal of 2022?
“A recent one I had at the brand-new Eleni’s in North Woburn may take the prize this year. Everything — the pastitsio, moussaka, giant beans in sauce, saganaki, bread with feta crumbles and olive oil, and seafood pasta — was top-notch, and it’s nice to see they’ve expanded from their original (mostly) takeout location in Winchester to this casual upscale full-service restaurant (with a full bar, by the way).”
“Sumiao Hunan Kitchen: I wasn’t much exposed to Hunan food before Sumiao; Sumiao Chen, the owner of the restaurant, really helped inform me of the range and variety of Hunan food, from mouth-numbingly spicy (if you ask for authentic spicy) but also tingly sour Yellow River Beef to the ultra-savory Lei Pi Dan (crushed century egg with green peppers). Unlike many other Chinese restaurants, Sumiao has an elaborate cocktail menu, which incorporates Chinese elements into the western-style cocktail format.”
“When you’re new to a city, sometimes the famous option is actually a good option. So if it’s your birthday, and you’re on the hunt for effervescent French 75s and Island Creeks slipping off the half shell and big meaty Jonah crab claws, and appropriately sauced pasta, feel no qualms about posting up in Row 34. I know this because I lived it. Birthdays are for seafood and gin, and for my first one here, Row 34 came up buckets. I don’t know exactly what that phrase means, but I promise it’s good.”
“Not necessarily a ‘restaurant,’ but the Italian sub from Monica’s Mercato in the North End was easily the best I’ve ever had. It sent me on a massive Italian sub kick over the summer, but none hit quite like that one. I still dream about it. It’s the only thing on my Christmas list this year. The perfect stocking stuffer.”
“Of the many contenders, Mooncusser in Back Bay wowed me the most over several dinners. When I reviewed it in 2017 for The Improper Bostonian (RIP), I liked it, but new chef Carl Dooley has upped its game considerably with a stunning prix-fixe menu. At $98, it’s the best luxury fine-dining deal in Boston: four courses plus two or three amuse-bouches, pretty white-tablecloth atmosphere, excellent service and a nice-priced wine list. And you can pre-game with a craft cocktail by the wildly inventive Todd Maul at his LTD Bar residency at Cusser’s downstairs. (A big thrill for me this year: Mayor Wu asked her Twitter followers for wedding anniversary dinner options, I suggested Mooncusser, and she went and loved it, too.)”
“My best restaurant meal of 2022 was at Nightshade Noodle Bar in Lynn. The 14-course tasting menu featured plate after plate of exciting flavors, textures, and ingredients, influenced by the cooking of Vietnam and France but unique to chef-owner Rachel Miller. It was wonderful in and of itself, but also because at the end I felt invigorated and pleasantly full rather than ill and overstuffed, as often happens with tasting menus. It also feels semi-miraculous that Miller and her tiny staff manage to produce such a high level of food and experience.”
“So tough to pick just one, but I keep coming back to Nightshade Noodle Bar. I’ve definitely found myself telling people lately that the best Boston restaurant is in Lynn. Does that make me sound geographically challenged? Perhaps. But I can’t stop thinking about this late summer feast I had there — gorgeous seafood, bright flavors, an irresistible noodle dish I’m still dreaming about, fun cocktails, great vibes. It’s a tasting menu absolutely jam-packed with special ingredients (Uni! Caviar! Percebes!), but not in a gimmicky, let’s-throw-a-bunch-of-fancy-stuff-on-a-plate way. It’s done beautifully, with impeccable technique, and it’s worth the splurge (and the drive).”
Nearly 100 people took part in Eater Boston’s dining survey this year (thank you, all!). Below, find a sampling of reader favorites for the best restaurant meal this year, and check out this post on Eater Boston’s Instagram account for many more responses.
- “I’ve enjoyed all the monthly tasting menus at Mooncusser in 2022 but I had the June menu five times. It was excellent. Soft shell crab, chitarra with oxtail, grilled pork with tomatoes and fish sauce, swordfish with cabbage and habanero. Really good stuff.”
- “Dear Annie’s cacio e pepe beans on toast.”
- “The spicy twin lobsters at Sumiao! Worth the 48 hour advance ordering, best lobster I’ve had in New England.”
- “The miso ribs and tuna sashimi at Judy’s Bay.”
- “Kobe cap steak from Grill 23.”
- “Feast of the gods at Krasi.”
- “Fish and chips from Ramsey’s in Boston.”
- “Eggplant rollatini special in February at Anchovies.”
- “Nightshade Noodle Bar’s $50 for five courses on Wednesday — especially the duck tongue dish!!”
- “Since the pandemic hit I’ve found my energy reserves for being outside the house have severely atrophied, and I’ve found it uncomfortable to be in restaurants for longer periods of time. At Wusong Road, the combination of the space/seating and the atmosphere made it so easy to keep ordering rounds of food and drinks just like pre-pandemic nights out. The cocktails are perfectly executed, the Peking duck is the best I’ve had that I didn’t need to order in advance, and I’ve stolen the mala tots recipe/idea and regularly make them at home! It made me remember why I love going to restaurants with my friends, and that’s why it was the best meal I had in 2022.”
These answers have been lightly condensed and edited for clarity.