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 is your biggest hope for Boston’s dining scene in 2023?
Marc Hurwitz, founder of Boston’s Hidden Restaurants and Boston Restaurant Talk, food/travel writer for Dig Boston and NBC Boston/NECN:
“I really worry about the combination of inflation, the pandemic, and a lack of workers continuing to eat away at the Boston-area restaurant scene. I’m not sure if we’ll see more workers in the industry anytime soon, but inflation does show signs of easing and the pandemic seems to be a bit more in control (knock wood) so maybe it’ll be a less stressful time to be in the business.”
Valerie Li Stack, Eater Boston contributor:
“I think the cost for outsiders to break into the dining scene is very high, especially for immigrants and people of color. But I’m also hopeful; in the past year or so, I’m already seeing a growing trend of women and people of color taking the lead and broadening our restaurant categories.
In terms of food, I hope to see more specificity when it comes to foreign cuisines — for instance, Thailand has multiple regional cuisines that vary in technique and ingredients used. I’d like to see more attempts to highlight what exactly those cuisines are about as opposed to bundling all the variations under a general category.”
Matt Shearer, reporter for WBZ NewsRadio:
“More visits from Guy Fieri. I know he has a couple of his own restaurants in town now, but I want to see him hanging with the Sausage Guy on Lansdowne Street, or crushing some NBA Jam at Roxy’s / A4cade in Cambridge.”
MC Slim JB, restaurant critic for Boston Magazine:
“I have a few:
- I hope we avoid a second dip in the economic recovery of the sort that historically accompanies periods of inflation like our current one. That would really sting restaurants and consumers alike.
- I continue to hope for common-sense reforms to liquor licensing practices, as State House control of Boston licenses profoundly hampers indie entrepreneurship. Many would-be first-time chef/owners are forced to flee Boston for suburbs that aren’t saddled with our bonkers, artificial scarcity-driven license prices. At the very least, I’d like to see more widely-available BYOB licenses to help new restaurateurs get going, like the one secured by Lenox Sophia in Southie.
- I continue to worry about climate change and hope the world comes to its senses there. If you can’t recognize the existential threat, at least consider how you’ll feel about your favorite seafood disappearing from menus.
- Affordable housing and reliable public transportation remain a challenge for restaurant workers, so I hope our local leaders remain committed to addressing those issues.
- Finally, I hold out fading hope that Twitter doesn’t continue its devolution into a hellscape of dangerous disinformation and bigotry. It has been a valuable social media channel for food journalists, hospitality pros and their fans, but if Twitter keeps morphing into the new 4chan, the handle @mcslimjb and that of any business that wants to protect its brand will abandon it for alternatives like Post.”
Devra First, restaurant critic for the Boston Globe:
“My biggest hope is that the industry continues to seek new ways to balance quality of life and a workable business model. Diners need to pay more; things need to cost less; etc. There are no easy answers. I’m not sure there are even hard, broadly applicable answers. But business by business, case by case, I hope people who love food keep figuring out how to figure it out, for themselves and their communities.”
Rachel Leah Blumenthal, food editor for Boston Magazine:
“Survival of the indie restaurants. It’s beyond challenging to open a restaurant — and keep it going — without deep-pocket, national-chain money, and it’s even harder in some neighborhoods than others. But I hope that in 2023, we continue to see the indies open and thrive. I’m so much more interested in what a local family-owned business is serving up than the 20th location of a multi-state chain. Vote with your dollars; support your favorite local spots as much as you can.”
Nearly 100 people took part in Eater Boston’s dining survey this year (thank you, all!). Below, find a sampling of reader responses chronicling the biggest hopes for Boston’s dining scene in 2023.
- “A higher level of food cooked by new, innovative chefs.”
- “This is a weird one, but a better soft serve ice cream scene! Give the people year-round soft serve!”
- “More national attention! We have such good stuff and our restaurants and bars rarely win the big awards.”
- “Chefs from out of town that aren’t from the Jamie/Ken tree or the Barbara Lynch tree. Food in Boston is very much the same and not exciting.”
- “That more restaurants can open up in available locations instead of banks or dental offices!”
- “More sit-down restaurants in Roxbury and Dorchester!”
- “More Mexican food!”
- “The scene keeps growing and new, unique cuisines are introduced to this historically lackluster-of-a-restaurant-scene city.”
- “A legit Tex-Mex spot. There is such a dire need. Someone, please serve a bowl of texas queso with homemade tortilla chips. How do we not have this!?”
- “More places with a strong viewpoint on food.”
- “Hoping for a little more casual and affordable menus.”
- “World recognition.”
These answers have been lightly condensed and edited for clarity.