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A Wishlist for Boston’s Dining Scene in 2024

Liquor licensing reform, liquor licensing reform, and liquor licensing reform

David L. Ryan/The Boston Globe via Getty Images
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 is your biggest hope for Boston’s dining scene in 2024?

My biggest hope for Boston’s dining scene is that it keeps doing what it is doing, and folks get hip to all the city and region has to offer. Pick a neighborhood and wander a bit. South End, East Boston, Dorchester, Mattapan, etc. You ought to find something to your liking.

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

Real, equitable liquor licensing reform would be great.

— Jacqueline Cain, freelance writer and Eater Boston contributor

More liquor licenses, please! And more initiatives from the city and the state to lower the barriers to opening new businesses. As for Somerville, it feels as if we’re losing restaurants and coffee shops to dispensaries. It’d be nice to see a diversification of businesses and community centers that bring neighbors together. On a dining-adjacent note, I think more bike lanes and improvement in cycling infrastructure in general would help boost restaurant business as well.

— Valerie Li Stack, freelance writer and Eater Boston contributor

Brunch everywhere! I’m hoping that some of my favorite spots in the city like Tenderoni’s and Fox & the Knife will open for brunch every weekend.

— Nathan Tavares, freelance writer and Eater Boston contributor

That investors will support entrepreneurs looking to introduce different, interesting, riskier, less-proven concepts that will continue to diversify and enrich the local food scene.

— Devra First, restaurant critic for the Boston Globe

More mom-and-pop bakeries that do a mean chocolate chip cookie. I’m talking warm, gooey on the inside, slightly crunchy around the rim, with sea salt on top and a stack of napkins on the side. Chocolate chip cookies were invented in Massachusetts. We don’t want any more chain bakeries from New York.

— Matt Shearer, reporter for WBZ NewsRadio

I really want all restaurants to succeed, but it’s tough with high rents and a lack of workers continuing to be twin problems that have caused more than a few dining spots to close. At least inflation seems to be easing which was yet another big problem as we started to come out of the pandemic, but there are certainly warning signs still out there, especially in areas that haven’t seen the return of people to offices.

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

I’d like to see the dining scene continue to evolve into a more community-based space with the curtain pulled back on the restaurant industry, similar to how Comfort Kitchen and Kendall DaCosta’s Out of Many One People supper club are operating. In those spaces diners are connecting more intimately with chefs and their processes and restaurants are becoming meeting grounds for culinary and artistic education and exploration.

— Celina Colby, freelance writer and Eater Boston contributor

It’d be great to see a space that acts as a stepping stone for first-time restaurant owners, like Bow Market in Somerville or the Charles River Speedway in Brighton, right in the beating heart of downtown Boston. Diners get to know up-and-coming talent in the industry, and owners can try out concepts and attract investors without managing a full build-out and raising hundreds of thousands of dollars for a liquor license.

— Erika Adams, Eater Boston editor

I want to see independent restaurants and small locally owned groups continue to survive (and thrive!) — more creative, quirky, small restaurants (and pop-ups, bakeries, etc.); fewer big, out-of-state chains.

— 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 a sampling of readers’ hopes for Boston’s dining scene next year:

  • “A Boston miracle occurs and our local govt officials come to their senses and drop the ridiculous $600k price tag for a liquor license by 99% while also making them readily accessible to local independent restauranteurs, resulting in fewer chains, a dramatically improved Boston dining scene, and an overall show of support for local businesses with more diverse ownership and menus.”
  • “More independent restaurants with daring concepts. We should be able to have innovative spaces to compete with Philadelphia, LA, Chicago, Miami, etc. I’m tired of seeing repetitive openings from the same chefs that aren’t going outside their comfort zone.”
  • “MICHELIN!! I hope the Michelin Guide comes to Boston. It would shine a light on some extraordinary dining already here, and help attract even more talent to our kitchens plus bring national recognition to our worthy chefs and restaurateurs.”
  • “Filling the longtime empty restaurant spaces around the city, especially the three spots at Mass and Washington near Toro.”
  • “That the ongoing dining boom in the seaport will inspire other neighborhood restaurant growth.”
  • “More restaurants exploring less well-known kinds of Asian food, especially Southeast Asian.”
  • “Restaurants find motivated and knowledgeable staff, and diners are grateful and kind.”
  • “More vegan and vegetarian food at fine dining restaurants.”
  • “More chefs making food authentic to themselves, and diversifying Boston’s food scene.”
  • “Getting rid of the subtle 20 percent service charge and then still adding a line for tip.”
  • “More restaurants and bars that emphasize community as part of the experience.”

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