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Overhead view of a single scallop in a shell, served on ice on a round blue plate, which is sitting on a wooden table. The scallop is garnished with a light sauce and poppyseeds.
Scallop at Loyal Nine
Bill Addison for Eater

The 38 Essential Restaurants in Boston, Fall 2017

Presenting Boston's updated Eater 38, your answer to any question that begins, "Can you recommend a restaurant?"

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Scallop at Loyal Nine
| Bill Addison for Eater

This elite group of 38 must-try restaurants is meant to cover the city of Boston and a little bit beyond while spanning multiple cuisines and price points, collectively satisfying all of your restaurant needs. Every quarter, we add a few pertinent restaurants that were omitted, have newly become eligible (restaurants must be open at least six months), or have stepped up their game. As such, we also must say goodbye — not necessarily forever — to a few restaurants each quarter to make room.

New this quarter: Cambridge's perpetually busy ramen destination, Yume Wo Katare, and Southie's ultimate hangout for pizza and more, Lincoln Tavern & Restaurant. For information on this quarter's retirees (and other past 38 entries), consult the Eater 38 archive.

Notes:

  • Restaurants are listed geographically, north to south. The numbers are not rankings.
  • Eater Boston's radius includes Cambridge, Somerville, and a little bit beyond, not just Boston proper, but the geographic radius for the Eater 38 has been tightened up a bit from previous updates. For a much broader view of the region, check out New England's 38 Essential Restaurants by Eater restaurant editor Bill Addison, with contributions from a number of local food writers.
  • To spread the love around, we never include more than one restaurant from the same restaurant group.

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The Table at Season to Taste

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This intimate Cambridge restaurant, built into the front of an existing catering company, is helmed by Top Chef alum Carl Dooley, Eater Boston's 2016 Chef of the Year. Grab a small snack at the standing wine bar or settle in for the restaurant's centerpiece, the four-course prix fixe, which highlights Dooley's impeccable technique and love of seasonal ingredients.

Katie Chudy for Eater

Yume wo Katare

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This tiny Porter Square ramen destination isn't just a restaurant — it's a place where the owner wants to make everyone's dreams come true, starting by encouraging diners to share those dreams out loud (after successfully finishing a giant bowl of ramen, of course). Aside from occasional seasonal specials, the simple menu only includes ramen, with a choice of adding extra noodles and/or extra pork to an already hearty portion. There's also water and tea available.In September 2017, Yume Wo Katare got a nearby sibling, Yume Ga Arukara, which similarly focuses on just one dish: udon with beef. And dreams.

Highland Kitchen

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A regular haunt of practically everyone who has ever lived in Somerville's Spring Hill or Union Square in the last few years, Highland Kitchen specializes in comfort food, a lively ambiance, and strong cocktails. Try the spicy goat stew and the house-made ginger beer (also spicy), or swing by on a Monday for fried chicken and Tiki drink specials. Sunday brunch is also popular; be sure to line up early. (Love Highland Kitchen? Check out the team's new venture — the rebirth of East Coast Grill in Inman Square. It reopened at the start of 2017.)

Sarma, the little sibling to Oleana and Sofra, opened in late 2013 on the tip of Winter Hill in Somerville, just uphill from bustling Union Square. The previous restaurant in the space had a forbidding, nearly windowless facade, and the neighborhood's dining options were scarce, but walk by Sarma today and you'll find giant windows and a beautiful, colorful spot with a lively bar scene. Chef/co-owner Cassie Piuma — an alum of Oleana, The Butcher Shop, and Sel de la Terre — creates a gorgeous array of Turkish-inspired small plates. (She was also a finalist for a 2015 James Beard award in the Best Chef: Northeast category.) Sarma is the only local entry on Eater restaurant editor Bill Addison's list, The Best Restaurants in America. The restaurant provides "an exhilarating survey of the herbaceous, sun-baked flavors of the Middle East," he writes. Of course, it's also included on the regional version of Addison's 38, "New England's 38 Essential Restaurants," where he calls it a "party of a restaurant celebrating the diverse, radiantly spiced flavors of the Middle East."

Bill Addison for Eater

La Brasa

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Open since spring 2014, this East Somerville restaurant gets better with each visit. Daniel Bojorquez' menu changes frequently, although a few staples always seem to pop up, like the Mexican fried rice, tacos de carnitas, and the roving rib roast cart. The menu doesn't stick to one particular region of the world, drawing inspiration from Mexico and well beyond. The massive wood-fired oven gives the gorgeous space a campfire smell. La Brasa was a long time coming, and it has really hit its stride. Keep an eye out for late-night wood-fired pizza on the weekends and monthly markets featuring local vendors, and be sure to visit La Brasa's sibling and neighbor in the adjacent space, an Italian restaurant called Fat Hen, which opened in summer 2016. La Brasa is also included in Eater's "New England's 38 Essential Restaurants," with contributor Jolyon Helterman raving about the restaurant's "live-fire dazzlement."

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Since opening at the end of 2012 between Porter Square and Harvard Square, Giulia has racked up a number of glowing reviews for its house-made pasta and warm staff. The pappardelle with wild boar is a popular choice, but you can't go wrong with anything on the menu. Chef/owner Michael Pagliarini previously worked as executive chef at Via Matta and has also worked under renowned Chicago chef Grant Achatz. In late 2016, Pagliarini opened a second Italian restaurant, Benedetto, in Harvard Square.

Tasting Counter

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Put this on your list for the next special occasion. Tasting Counter, open since summer 2015, offers an elaborate, multi-course adventure — and as the name suggests, you're at a counter, watching everything prepared right in front of you. Like a show, it's a ticketed event; diners pay in advance online and don't have to think about money at all at the restaurant.

A minimalist, bright white restaurant interior featuring a high-end tasting counter John Skibbee for Tasting Counter

Juliet opened early in 2016, and the restaurant's busy first year included plenty of awards, both locally and nationally. It landed as a finalist on Bon Appetit's annual "best new restaurants" list, for example, and was named Eater Boston's Restaurant of the Year for 2016. (Plus, co-owner Katrina Jazayeri was named to Eater's national Young Guns list this year.) And it wowed all the Boston food critics, too. Accolades aside, Juliet is simply doing lots of things right — and with a lot of heart. Diners can find everything from a takeout breakfast taco and a cup of coffee all the way to a fancy multi-course dinner (and many things in between). There are lovely prix fixe breakfast and lunch options at the cozy counter, not to mention a variety of a la carte snacks, meals, and baked goods. Juliet is trying to be a lot of things, and who's to say it can't succeed at being all of them? It's already becoming a neighborhood favorite, and other neighborhoods should be a little jealous.

Brewer's Fork

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Since opening in early 2015 in a section of Charlestown mostly devoid of restaurants, Brewer's Fork has brought a bustling, pizza-loving crowd to the quiet block. The specialty is wood-fired pizza, but there are also hearty brunch sandwiches, oysters, and one of the best beer lists you'll see anywhere. Snag a seat on the patio when weather permits. Brewer's Fork is one of Eater Boston's 2015 award winners — stop by and find out why it's "So Hot Right Now."

Katie Chudy for Eater

Puritan & Co.

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Puritan & Co. oozes New England with beautiful dishes such as wood-fired duck breast or perfectly seared scallops or swordfish pastrami, not to mention a late-night South Shore bar-style pizza special. And of course there's brunch, with pastries aplenty and dishes such as beef patty melts, Belgian waffles, and corned beef hash. The restaurant recently debuted a private events room for all your party needs.

Loyal Nine

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Serving up colonial-inspired "East Coast Revival" cuisine in East Cambridge, Loyal Nine was one of the most unique openings of 2015 and was the only local entry on Eater restaurant editor Bill Addison's 2015 list of the country's 21 best new restaurants of the year. Your plan of attack: Try all sorts of seafood, such as a single, perfect scallop (the preparation changes over time, but there are usually poppyseeds involved), and save room for one of the roasts, which vary nightly. Dessert is also a must, or at least try a baked good during a daytime visit to the restaurant's cafe. Loyal Nine is also included in Eater's "New England's 38 Essential Restaurants," where contributor Amy Traverso describes it as an "ambitious, thinky, New England-inspired restaurant without the ye olde kitsch."

Overhead view of a restaurant dish with a soft egg yolk, bubbly green foam, herb garnish, and sauteed root vegetables. Bill Addison for Eater

Santarpio's Pizza

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Santarpio's in Eastie is the place to go to shut up your obnoxious New York friends when they claim there's no good pizza in Boston. This classic joint is unassuming and rough around the edges, just the way it should be. Pizzeria Regina may win the classic duel for sheer expansion, but Santarpio's pizza is unmatched.

Cal Bingham for Eater

Cafe Sushi

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Cafe Sushi has been serving up amazing and affordable sushi for more than 30 years, a favorite of industry folks and general sushi lovers alike. For a real treat, order the omakase, a chef's selection of seemingly endless courses that bounce joyfully between traditional preparations and funkier combinations.

Korsha Wilson for Eater

Waypoint

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In a time when what remains of Harvard Square's uniqueness is being threatened more than ever, this little sibling to Alden & Harlow has quickly cemented its place as an important (and more importantly, fun) dining destination in the neighborhood. It boasts the biggest absinthe selection around, a vibe that careful toes the line between trendy and casual, and a menu jam-packed with creative seafood dishes and more. Want to go all-out with a full caviar service? You've got it. Smoked whitefish pizza? Sure thing. Big, shareable hunks of roasted meat? Yep. Waypoint is also included in Eater's "New England's 38 Essential Restaurants," where contributor Jolyon Helterman praises the "confident, vivid, highly original cooking that throws moderation to the wind in deploying fat, salt, and pure-pigment flavor: the good stuff."

Waypoint Rachel Leah Blumenthal for Eater

Mamaleh's

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Making Cambridge’s Jewish delicatessen dreams come true since 2016, Mamaleh’s comes from the fun-loving State Park team (also behind the now-defunct Hungry Mother and the French-Canadian restaurant that took its place, Cafe du Pays). Mamaleh’s serves up everything a good Jewish deli should, including an all-day breakfast menu (bagel sandwiches with lox, whitefish, and the like; egg sandwiches on challah rolls; baked goods; more). At lunch and dinner, plenty more dishes come out to play, from knishes to kreplach, blintzes to gribenes, Reubens and Rachels, deli sandwiches piled high with pastrami and corned beef and tongue, and so much more. Also: egg creams, phosphates, celery soda, boozy milkshakes, Slivovitz flights, and deli-inspired cocktails (one even has Manischewitz.) And don’t forget the cozy basement comedy shows, the tchotchkes in the gift shop, and the takeout options at the deli counter. Oy, just go try it already.

Rachel Leah Blumenthal for Eater

KO Pies at the Shipyard

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Australian meat pies and beer sound good enough on their own, right? Now add to the mix the fact that this spot is hidden away in a shipyard in East Boston, a shipyard that happens to be filled with cool art installations and glorious views of downtown. Be sure to spend some time on the patio, and try the Irish beef stew meat pie, one of Boston's most iconic dishes.

Cal Bingham for Eater

Craigie on Main

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Craigie is known for making simple dishes like roasted chicken extraordinary by using advanced techniques and technology — and for serving dishes that are just plain extraordinary, like a shareable confit and roasted milk-fed pig’s head with spicy pumpkin sambal and boudin noir-hoisin sauce. And of course, there's that iconic burger. Craigie is also included in Eater's "New England's 38 Essential Restaurants," where Eater restaurant editor Bill Addison describes it as "the American bistro in its noblest form." Craigie owner Tony Maws also opened up a more casual restaurant a few years ago, The Kirkland Tap & Trotter, which is located on the edge of Somerville and Cambridge.

Bill Addison for Eater

Branch Line

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Hitting its six-month mark in April 2016, this restaurant jumped right onto the 38 thanks to its insanely good rotisserie chicken (not to mention all the things cooked in the rotisserie drippings), creative beer list (especially if you like sours), and all-around fun atmosphere. There's even a bocce court next to the excellent patio. Don't miss the sugar snap pea salad. Branch Line comes from Eastern Standard hospitality gurus Garrett Harker and Andrew Holden, and it shows.

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Haley.Henry

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This teeny-tiny industry haunt in Downtown Crossing doesn't have much kitchen space, but it more than makes up for that with its selection of fancy tinned seafoods from Spain, Portugal, and the United States; its killer wine list; its ship-like ambiance; and its sense of humor. This is the place to go for those who want to eat Portuguese tinned smoked eels, perfectly paired with a funky, hard-to-find wines. Also on the compact menu: "biggie small plates," such as prime rib sliders; "bone thugs & charcuterie," such the notorious P.I.G. (mangalica); and a variety of fancy-shmancy toasts. Plus, Alton Brown approves.

Brian Samuels for Haley.Henry

Yvonne's

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Since opening in fall 2015, Yvonne's has quickly become one of the hottest destinations downtown. The historic Locke-Ober space has been lovingly remade into a sexy "supper club" with excellent cocktails, a fun and varied menu of small plates and big feasts, and transcendent desserts. It doesn't take itself too seriously — the stately library bar, for example, includes a cheeky painting of a tattooed JFK — but it's suitable for a high-rolling business dinner, a date night, or any other occasion that demands a dark, energetic space.

Gene's Chinese Flatbread Cafe

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Townsman

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Townsman — Eater Boston's 2015 Restaurant of the Year — is a downtown destination for giant seafood towers, beautiful crudo, charcuterie plates, and upscale New England cuisine. "I just want this restaurant to party. I really do," chef/owner Matt Jennings told Eater as the restaurant's first anniversary approached. Don't miss the chowder.

Bill Addison for Eater

Sushi lovers who have not yet embarked on O Ya's iconic grand omakase have not yet lived. And it's not just the seafood — the wagyu beef is so tender that it may bring a tear to your eye. Hidden in the Leather District, this tiny spot has accumulated numerous awards, including a James Beard for chef/co-owner Tim Cushman. In the last few years, the O Ya family has exploded to include a more casual Boston restaurant called Hojoko as well as an O Ya and a couple other restaurants at a hotel in New York. Boston's O Ya is also included in Eater's "New England's 38 Essential Restaurants," where contributor Jolyon Helterman writes that "dishes arrive as precise and evocative as edible Seurats."

In O Ya’s “legs & eggs” dish, several pieces of sushi sit on a plate, topped with caviar and Maine lobster Bill Addison for Eater

Saltie Girl

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Saltie Girl may be small, but it boasts a large selection of seafood dishes that touch on so many different genres. Your table might be full of everything from a raw bar tower to lobster bisque to uni Benedict toast to torched salmon belly crudo to fried lobster and waffles...oh, and there are plenty of imported tins of seafood as well. This young Back Bay restaurant is a seafood lover's dream come true. (By the way, you can add lobster and/or caviar by the ounce to anything on the menu.)

Shōjō brings a new spin to Asian fusion, upping the ante with dishes like the "Son of Shojonator" burger (complete with kimchi velveeta) and suckling pig bao. Plus, the Shōjō team recently revamped The Best Little Restaurant, also located close by and now known as BLR by Shōjō, and opened a noodle shop called Ruckus.

Sportello

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Any Barbara Lynch restaurant could easily be named in this group, but Sportello is perhaps the most approachable in terms of price point and vibe while still showing off that Lynch magic. Minimalist diner meets trattoria with a small open kitchen, counter seating, and a menu of impeccable pastas and more. And oh, that spicy tomato soup. Sportello also appears on Eater’s "New England’s 38 Essential Restaurants," where contributor Jolyon Helterman describes Sportello as an "undersung gem" that "rocks a vibrant energy equal parts A-game and fresh."

Pat Piasecki for Sportello

Erbaluce

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A mainstay in the "best Italian restaurant" category in a variety of publications, and with good reason, Erbaluce is an excellent destination nestled in Bay Village. Chef/owner Charles Draghi changes the menu nightly, but you can always expect beautiful Italian food prepared with local, seasonal ingredients. Erbaluce has the disinction of being continually described by everyone as "under the radar" even as it continues to win awards and recognition.

Cal Bingham for Eater

Row 34

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This lively "workingman's oyster bar" — the perfect embodiment of Boston's current New England dining scene — has a slightly more moderate price point and casual ambiance than its big sibling over in Kenmore Square, Island Creek Oyster Bar. Row 34 is one of several key players in the Fort Point restaurant boom, drawing massive crowds to a once-quiet section of town. With a creative beer list and ultra-fresh seafood, Row 34 is becoming one of the trickiest reservations to snag. It has a second location in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. The Boston location is also included in Eater's "New England's 38 Essential Restaurants," where contributor Jolyon Helterman writes that both lobster rolls (creamy mayo and hot butter) "reach apotheosis."

Meg Jones Wall for Eater

Since opening in January 2013, Asta has quietly built up a devoted following for its tasting menu-only format. The mysterious restaurant has a mostly bar website, little-to-no marketing or social media presence, and an amazing Zeus painted on the wall, salvaged from the restaurant formerly in the space. The minimalist menu gives only slight hints at what diners will receive; a sample listing on the website includes dishes such as pumpkin vine with black walnut; sand shark with radish and young ginger; and tomato with white chocolate fudge.

Bill Addison for Eater

Select Oyster Bar

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A finalist for Eater Boston's 2015 Restaurant of the Year, Select is one of the newest additions to Boston's high-end seafood scene. You'll spend a solid chunk of change here, but if you're looking for simple yet unexpected seafood dishes made with impeccably fresh products, this is your spot. Chef/owner Michael Serpa first made a name for himself at Neptune Oyster in the North End before opening up Select in Back Bay.

Mei Mei

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This brick-and-mortar version of the ultra-popular Mei Mei Street Kitchen food truck opened up in a sunny, cozy Audubon Circle space in late 2013, offering up fun, Asian-inspired cuisine. The Mei Mei team is passionate about serving responsibly slaughtered meats and supporting local farmers, and their values come through on the creative menu, which includes the beloved Double Awesome, a scallion pancake sandwich stuffed with greens, cheese, and two slow-poached-then-fried eggs. Co-owner Irene Li was named to the Eater Young Guns class of 2016.

Meg Jones Wall for Eater

Tiger Mama

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Down the street from its older sibling, Sweet Cheeks, Tiger Mama is making a name for itself with funky decor (hello, disco ball elephant), exciting cocktails, and flavor-packed dishes inspired by cuisine around Southeast Asia. From spicy papaya salad to a banquet-style smoked and fried duck dish, from crispy pork ribs to noodle and rice dishes, there's something for everyone.

Katie Chudy for Eater

Bar Mezzana

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Bar Mezzana, a 2016 Restaurant of the Year nominee, is packed full of alums from the Barbara Lynch Gruppo, and it shows in the high level of hospitality and flawless execution of a menu that features excellent crudo, pasta, and more from chef/co-owner Colin Lynch (no relation to Barbara). Don't miss the lobster paccheri. And don't just swing by for a swanky dinner date: The bustling bar scene is fun, too, and brunch is a worthy contender.