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A hand drizzles hot honey out of a squeeze bottle onto an open-faced sandwich heating up on a flat-top grill.
The sandwiches at Southern Pines Diner Car won over diners this year.
Malakhai Pearson/Eater Boston

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The Most Exciting Boston Restaurant Openings of 2023

Amar, Lehrhaus, Southern Pines Diner Car, and more

Erika Adams is the editor of Eater Boston.

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 to come in 2024. The results have been collected in the following series of posts. (Check out the full archive here.)

Below, we ask: What was your favorite new restaurant (or bar, or food truck, or pop-up) that opened this year?

Comfort Kitchen is my favorite new restaurant that opened this year. My partner and I went in July and were blown away by the vibe, the food, the staff, everything. It’s our spot now. It’s fine dining that is welcoming, sharing stories of different cultures through food and drink. Boston has a gem over in Dorchester.

— Darryl C. Murphy, host of WBUR’s daily news and culture podcast, The Common

Moon Bar Boston. I have literally been waiting since 2015 for chef Carl Dooley to serve his food in a casual bar setting. The dishes on the menu are not too different from the excellence upstairs at the tasting-menu Mooncusser. It’s always exciting to see what Dooley’s doing with global spice profiles, fruit, and local seafood. I loved the chayote Caesar salad with wax peppers, and the banana leaf-wrapped black bass with pineapple sambal and roti at Moon Bar. It’s a great location near Back Bay at the Theater District, the dimly-neon-lit vibe is right, and the drinks are fantastic, too.

I’d be remiss to not mention Southern Pines Diner Car, a sandwich counter that’s one of several awesome openings at Bow Market this year. Though I wanted everything on the menu, I chose a special Steak & Cheese with sharp cheddar and taleggio, chimichurri lettuce, and pickled jalapeños on fat-soaked Hi-Rise Bakery challah bread. So flippin’ good.

— Jacqueline Cain, freelance writer and Eater Boston contributor

Jadu is a fun wine pop-up hosted by two friends who are extremely passionate and knowledgeable about wines from around the world. Talking wine can be intimidating at times and the wine world always feels a bit exclusive to me — but Jadu is an exception. Run by two friends Gabrielle Malina and Maya Mukhopadhaya, their approach to wine centers around building community and introducing wines from lesser-known regions. After their first launch in the heart of Somerville, they’ve since branched out to wine dinners at Third Cliff, a JP bakery I love. Their pop-ups sell out fast so be sure to subscribe to their mailing list or follow them on Instagram!

— Valerie Li Stack, freelance writer and Eater Boston contributor

Amar, which opened up in Raffles Boston in September, is really special, from the modern Portuguese cuisine to the view of all of Boston. The codfish is out of this world. So is the pao de lo dessert, which is one of the best things I ate this whole year. If I hadn’t been in public, I would’ve completely licked the plate after inhaling that dish.

— Nathan Tavares, freelance writer and Eater Boston contributor

I really admire the concept at Lehrhaus. So many restaurants are trying to create an Experience now, and Lehrhaus genuinely is one: It exists equally to be a tavern and a house of Jewish learning. The programming is unique, and it’s a loving and thoughtful cultural showcase/tribute. I also appreciate its visibility at a time when antisemitism is such a part of the cultural conversation. I’m not too big on platitudes about food bringing people together, but I do think spaces where we can meet and learn and get to know and understand one another as individuals are of great value.

— Devra First, restaurant critic for the Boston Globe

Yard Meat in Gloucester. These dudes would just grill in their front yard and hand out burgers to anyone who pulled up, all for donations. The health inspector wasn’t a fan, but I sure was.

— Matt Shearer, reporter for WBZ NewsRadio

Shy Bird in South Boston for its outstanding fried chicken bites which can be ordered with a variety of sauces — chipotle, honey mustard, ranch, sweet and sour — and while they are probably meant as an app/shareable dish, I’m ok with getting a 12 piece or even a 20 piece and telling people that they can get their own (in a nice way, of course, as long as they don’t try to grab one when I’m not looking). Oh, their smash burgers are outstanding as well, by the way, and they serve Fernet-Branca which is both a blessing and a curse.

— Marc Hurwitz, founder of Boston’s Hidden Restaurants and Boston Restaurant Talk, food/travel writer for NBC Boston/NECN

I already spilled the beans on my picks for this category. In the site’s Eater Awards, published at the beginning of December, I got to spotlight five of my favorite new openings this year, including Comfort Kitchen, Grace by Nia, and Southern Pines Diner Car. Check out the full list here.

— Erika Adams, Eater Boston editor

So many great openings this year—and so many I haven’t even had time to check out yet! (It’s going to be a delicious early 2024, that’s for sure.) A few favorites: Comfort Kitchen (for a flavor-packed exploration of ingredients of the African diaspora), Bar Vlaha (for Greek food like I’ve never experienced before), Lehrhaus (for Jewish food both nostalgic and unique, not to mention very fun cocktails), and the Eaves (for creating a truly transportive experience in such a quirky little space).

— Rachel Leah Blumenthal, Boston Magazine food editor

Reader responses

Over 80 people took part in Eater Boston’s dining survey this year (thank you, all!). Below, find the top reader favorites for new restaurants that opened this year:

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