Welcome to Ask Eater, a column from Eater where the site’s editor answers specific, real-life dining questions from readers. Names and identifying information have been removed for privacy purposes. Have a question for us? Submit your inquiry by emailing email@example.com.
A reader writes,
I have compiled a list of the best restaurants around Boston, and I’d like to get your feedback. Just curious what your thoughts are of this list?
Reader, I admit, I have fielded all kinds of queries in this line of work — but this is the first time someone has sent me a hand-written list of their favorite restaurants and asked for my take. Weighing in is dangerous territory, but how could I resist? I wrote Boston Foodie back immediately.
Our emails back and forth are below.
Erika Adams: I’d love to answer this; but first, I have one follow-up question. If you could narrow this list down to one restaurant, what would it be?
Boston Foodie: Bagelsaurus for breakfast and Pammy’s for dinner.
If you could only eat at Bagelsaurus or Pammy’s every day for, like, a week, which would you choose?
If money wasn’t a question, Pammy’s.
I haven’t been to Pammy’s yet, but I have a dinner scheduled there next Wednesday. Do you mind hanging tight until then? I want to make sure I experience the restaurant before telling you what I think.
That’s a nice perk for work! Be sure to get the lumache and the short rib.
I absolutely will.
A week later, I sent Boston Foodie my final verdict:
Determining whether Pammy’s is the best restaurant in Boston is a mammoth task. If I were to really take this seriously, I would eat at every restaurant in Boston (including Cambridge, Somerville, Brookline, and Quincy, at minimum) and compare each of those restaurants to Pammy’s. But that would take many years. Instead, I chose to compare Pammy’s, a contemporary American riff on an Italian neighborhood restaurant, to my current favorite restaurant playing in the same sandbox: Tonino in Jamaica Plain.
I didn’t do it alone. One of Eater Boston’s star freelancers, Valerie Li Stack, is a stone-cold expert at analyzing both cooking methods and ingredients in a dish and how they come together (or don’t) on the plate. We have each visited both Pammy’s and Tonino within the past month, separately and with other diners in tow. Over a delightful 80-minute phone conversation, we compared notes on both restaurants.
I understand why Pammy’s has a cult following. But Tonino is playing a different game altogether. The well-edited dishes morph in rhythm with the New England seasons. Everything tasted like it had been perfected over time before debuting on the menu, including the Countneck clams, the lumache, and the cappelletti. We were excitedly discussing what we were going to order on our next Tonino visit by the end of the call.
Pammy’s is a great restaurant. It was on the Eater 38 for a spell under the previous editor, and I’m considering bringing it back after this visit.
But it is not the best restaurant in Boston.
The last time I published an Ask Eater column, some took to the comments to yell about how Boston’s restaurant scene sucks. The restaurants I’ve mentioned here do not suck. There’s a class of talent rising up in Boston’s dining scene right now that could go head-to-head with the current new talent in New York City. (Prior to Eater Boston, I was on staff at Eater New York for nearly three years.) Try Luke Fetbroth’s cappelletti at Tonino. Try Laurence Louie’s beef brisket rice rolls at Rubato. Try Trevor Smith’s lamb meatballs at Thistle & Leek. Try Renae Connolly’s smoked vanilla mascarpone gelato at Moëca. These people chose to open restaurants in one of the most brutal markets in the country, during an ongoing global pandemic that has decimated the industry, in a city with a reputation for being one of the worst places to eat in the country. The conviction and self-confidence it takes for independent chefs to pour themselves into a new restaurant in the face of all that — I swear, at these places, I can taste it in the food.
And when it comes to a conversation about the best restaurant in Boston right now, I think these chefs have something very important to say.
Anyway, thanks for emailing! This was fun.
These emails have been edited and condensed for clarity.
Eater Boston cannot individually respond to any other readers’ personal best-of lists but welcomes lively civil debate in the comments.