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 Boston’s most exciting — or most infuriating — local restaurant trend of 2022?
“Most exciting — seeing so many independent dining spots come to the city’s neighborhoods. Dorchester, Roslindale, Hyde Park, Brighton, Charlestown, Roxbury, and other parts of Boston are getting a lot of interesting restaurants and food places that are run by locals.”
“Not sure if this is a trend, but I thought the idea of the salad-making robot at Bonapita was interesting. Delicious salad, of course, but all credit there belongs to the human chef who conceptualized it. Although give it time and some A.I. Chatbot will come up with something new.”
“I ardently believe that cool, original indies are crucial to the character of Boston’s restaurant landscape, keeping the city in a tier above many dull, chain-heavy American cities. So I was thrilled to see the debut of places like Boonnoon Market, a tiny Thai restaurant/grocery in Arlington with brilliant food and vivid, novel Thai ingredients for your home kitchen; Koji Club at The Speedway in Brighton, a proper sake bar with a zealous educational mission; and Madhouse Cafe, an utterly gorgeous spot for tea, coffee and Lebanese pastries with a literal window into a Roxbury motorcycle restoration and repair shop. These are the kind of quirky passion projects that give our scene its soul.
Meanwhile, my blood boils every time some food-TV shouter or face-stuffer opens a restaurant in town that takes business away from worthier local operators. This year’s culprits are Guy Fieri, Gordon Ramsay, and Jon Taffer. One is a famously mediocre restaurant operator, another sold out his considerable culinary talent to get rich on obnoxious reality TV, and the third is a horrible human being. They follow in the footsteps of 2021’s most ridiculous absentee nameplate: studly Instagram sensation Nusret “Salt Bae” Gökçe, whose gimmick is splashing salt down his forearm (ick) onto an obscenely overpriced steak. Seriously?! Fuck those shiny, grasping carpetbaggers.”
“Is it exciting to see upscale oyster bars seeding themselves all over town? It’s more like a relief, a welcome correction. This is what Boston’s seafood scene is supposed to look like. I’m also glad to see the continued steady blossom of plant-centric dining. Diners want it, and the planet needs it.”
Nearly 100 people took part in Eater Boston’s dining survey this year (thank you, all!). Below, find a sampling of reader responses for the most exciting — and most infuriating — restaurant trends seen around town this year.
- “Relying on non-local restaurant groups to back big openings. It was both exciting in some ways and a sad state of affairs.”
- “Restaurants discovering sriracha for the first time, overusing it, and destroying the nostalgic flavors of my childhood was infuriating.”
- “An emerging BIPOC restaurant community coming up is super exciting.”
- “Restaurants booked out for weeks.”
- “Caviar on everything! And I count that as exciting.”
- “A new generation of innovative Asian food cooked by Asian chefs.”
- “Anything from TikTok.”
- “Tip screens at fast causal places. Having to tip where you never used to tip.”
- “Most exciting trend: Restaurants doing more with less space like Super Bien and Koji Club. The intimate but laid-back vibes are much needed to build back my energy for leaving the house. Most frustrating trend: Landlords jacking up rent to effectively kick out longtime neighborhood institutions and venues, which are then replaced by concepts from huge restaurant groups (e.g. Blue Ribbon’s takeover of Fenway).”
- “There’s a continuing improvement in vision and execution on cocktail menus around the city as the Boston’s already storied presence in the national scene grows. Infuriating: price increases, but restaurants are under a lot of pressure. Also, a number of restaurants don’t allow single diners to reserve a seat — even at their bar. It’s unfair and tells single diners that the restaurant’s seat-maximizing strategy is more important than customers.”
These answers have been lightly condensed and edited for clarity.