clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile
Khao soi — a yellow curry with chicken, egg, lime, crispy noodles, and more — is served in a traditional Thai-style bowl decorated with a rooster. The bowl sits on a yellow surface.
Khao soi at Dakzen
Rachel Leah Blumenthal/Eater

The Best Dishes the Eater Boston Team Ate in 2019

From khao soi to banh mi

View as Map
Khao soi at Dakzen
| Rachel Leah Blumenthal/Eater

The Eater Boston team spent a lot of time eating in 2019. Here are our favorite Boston-area dishes from the year — the best of the best. Feel free to chime in with your own favorites in the comment section below, or join our Facebook group to discuss.

See also: The Year in Eater: A Look Back at the 2019 Boston Food World

Read More

Goldilox Bagels: Rosemary Salt Bagels

Copy Link

Around summer 2018, I got my first taste of some test bagels from the in-the-works Goldilox Bagels through some lucky friend-of-a-friend connections, and I fan-girled for them hard for the year leading up to the opening of the Goldilox storefront. Now the cheery little shop is open, and it’s bringing some serious bagel power to the Boston area’s somewhat lacking bagel scene. The rosemary salt bagel is the winner, but the rest are excellent as well. —RLB

A charred bagel with a bubbly crust is topped with rosemary and salt and sits on a wooden counter
A rosemary salt bagel from Goldilox
Rachel Leah Blumenthal/Eater

Semolina Kitchen & Bar: Tomato and Goat Cheese Pappardelle

Copy Link

It should come as no surprise that Semolina Kitchen serves delicious pasta, given its sibling and source is Dave’s Fresh Pasta of Somerville, but one of the pappardelle dishes on the dinner menu is truly spectacular. Globs of goat cheese melt slightly into a saucy coating that mellows out the pop of roasted cherry tomatoes nestled into pappardelle swirls with garlic and basil. —DH

Nighttime shot of the exterior of a restaurant, including an illuminated patio under wooden trellises. People are dining inside and out. Signage reads “Semolina & Bar”
Semolina Kitchen & Bar
Rachel Leah Blumenthal

Avenue Kitchen & Bar: Detroit-Style Pizza

Copy Link

A new spot up in Somerville, Avenue Kitchen & Bar serves a ton of interesting dishes, but of particular note is the Detroit-style square pizza, a rare find in New England. The crispy, almost caramelized crust comes loaded with a thick layer of cheese and tomato sauce spooned over top. It’s warm and bready and perfect for pairing with one of the restaurant’s local craft beers. —DH

Overhead view of a rectangular pepperoni pizza, with two horizontal strips of tomato sauce across
Pepperoni Detroit-style pizza at Avenue Kitchen & Bar
Rachel Leah Blumenthal/Eater

Dakzen: Khao Soi

Copy Link

Arguably the greatest of Thai soups, khao soi is a northern curry dish with a broth thickened by coconut milk and seasoned with chiles, ginger, and greens. Dakzen’s version comes with a choice of meat (or tofu, for any vegetarians out there), and it has a beautiful warming effect. —DH

One of my favorite dishes at one of my favorite restaurants. The tom yum noodle soup is also incredible if you want to change things up a bit. —RLB

Overhead shot of khao soi on a bright yellow surface. The bowl has a traditional Thai pattern on it, including a rooster. The khao soi includes pickled mustard greens, an egg, lime wedges, a nest of crispy noodles, and more.
Khao soi at Dakzen
Rachel Leah Blumenthal/Eater

Chalawan: Snapper Dumplings and Scallops

Copy Link

Chalawan has a vast and impressive menu of Southeast Asian dishes, and the steamed snapper dumplings stand out among the rest. Served with chile and black vinegar sauce, each dumpling can be eaten in one bite — with an extra spoonful of sauce, while you’re at it. —DH

I’m enthusiastically co-signing this one; Chalawan is probably my favorite new restaurant of the year overall. I agree with Dana that the snapper dumplings are special, and I also want to give a shoutout to the seared scallops topped with caramelized duck, which I find myself ordering on every visit. —RLB

Three white Asian-style soup spoons are lined up, each holding a scallop topped with caramelized duck. More plates of food are visible in the background.
Scallops at Chalawan
Rachel Leah Blumenthal/Eater

Manoa Poke Shop: Fried Chicken

Copy Link

Manoa Poke Shop closed its storefront at the beginning of 2019, shifting focus to its catering operations — a sad loss for Somerville as it was one of the Boston area’s first and best poke shops. But later in the year, the storefront reopened (although just on weekends), and it’s even better than before. I can’t get the fried chicken plate out of my head, and the addition of a weekly special, chile-glazed salmon belly, really took the plate to the next level. —RLB

A plate of fried chicken, white rice, mac salad, kimchi, greens, and a chile-glazed piece of salmon belly
Fried chicken plate with a weekly special (chile-glazed salmon belly) at Manoa
Rachel Leah Blumenthal/Eater

Celeste: Lomo Saltado

Copy Link

Shortly before Celeste opened early last year, I went to the intimate Peruvian restaurant to interview the owners and shoot some photos for a preview story. Chef and co-owner JuanMa Calderon fired up some lomo saltado for a photo, and suddenly the smell of the flames hitting that soy sauce-marinated beef triggered something in me, and I haven’t been able to get enough of the dish ever since. On a recent visit, my friends happily shared entrees with each other, while I hoarded a hefty order of lomo saltado all to myself. Not sorry. —RLB

A white bowl on a white table is full of chunks of cooked beef, tossed with slices of red pepper and tomatoes. The dish is topped with green herbs.
Lomo saltado at Celeste
Rachel Leah Blumenthal/Eater

Tanám: Pork Belly Asado Mini Siopao Sandwich

Copy Link

Bow Market is a treasure chest, and Tanám (our 2019 Restaurant of the Year) is one of its gems. There were a lot of dishes I ate throughout Bow Market this year that stand out in my mind, but Tanám’s pork belly mini siopao sandwiches — grilled Berkshire pork belly, cilantro, and asado sauce — top the list. They’re available on the Thursday night bar snacks menu, and you might feel the need to order 10 of them. They’re pictured here at Bow Market wine bar Rebel Rebel; you can carry food from any Bow vendor around the market freely. —RLB

Two soft buns stuffed with pork belly and greens sit on a plate on a light wooden bar, with a glass of white wine visible in the background
Pork belly buns from Tanám (at Rebel Rebel)
Rachel Leah Blumenthal/Eater

Rae the Baker Pop-Up at Field & Vine: Pretzeled Croissant

Copy Link

Rae the Baker” popped up at Field & Vine on Saturday mornings for a year and a half, serving long lines of fans the most perfect pastries. (The pop-up is now over, but she’s looking for a new space, permanent or otherwise, so stay tuned for updates.) While I will happily eat anything she bakes, I found the pretzeled croissant to be my favorite — buttery, salty, airy, just the right combination of the two treats. Honorable mention: the kouign amann-ish miso morning buns. —RLB

A pretzel-croissant hybrid and several other baked goods sit on white bakery paper
Pretzeled croissant and more from Rae the Baker
Rachel Leah Blumenthal/Eater

Puritan & Company: Any Dessert

Copy Link

Pastry chef Brian Mercury joined the Puritan & Co. team this year and immediately started turning out unbelievable desserts. They’re a sight to see, but even more stunning upon taste, particularly a raspberry sorbet with basil, Queen Anne’s lace jelly, and seeded crackers. —DH

Several scoops of bright red sorbet are served in a wooden bowl with delicate greens and seeded crackers
Raspberry sorbet at Puritan & Co.
Rachel Leah Blumenthal/Eater

Deluxe Town Diner: Sauteed Chicken Livers

Copy Link

I’m a sucker for eating or drinking anything inside an old-timey diner car. I love the Rosebud in Somerville, I love the Breakfast Club in Lower Allston, and I love the Deluxe Town Diner in Watertown. Its menu consists of classic diner fare, and it’s all solid, but my go-to here are sauteed chicken livers. They are served with onions and are tossed with a mix of herbs, and they have that slight irony taste typical of offal. These livers are low-key some of the best nasty bits available in greater Boston. —TBD 

Closeup shot inside a diner showing a neon sign that says “diner” on a rocket ship flying past Saturn
Deluxe Town Diner
Jacqueline Dole/Eater

Pammy's: Lumache

Copy Link

Pammy’s has been open for about two and a half years now, and I’ve been fortunate to squeeze in quite a few visits since it debuted, nearly always ordering the lumache, which is served in a rich and spicy Bolognese spiked with the Korean chile paste gochujang. I ate it on two opposing occasions this year, once in celebration and once in grief, and it was equally suited to both — a simple, heartwarming, comfortable meal. —RLB

A big white bowl on a white tiled surface, filled with lumache in a red sauce and garnished with a thinly sliced green herb.
Lumache at Pammy’s
Natasha Moustache

Tawakal Halal Cafe: Sambusa

Copy Link

Huddling into this tiny, bright East Boston restaurant on a cold and rainy night, I found great comfort in sipping spiced tea and snacking on the delicately fried vegetable sambusa, dipped in the excellent house-made hot sauce. It’s a restaurant I had been hearing raves about for months — years, really, since this was the rebirth of a popular restaurant that closed back in 2011 — and regretted waiting so long to try it. Now that I’ve been there, I can’t wait to return. —RLB

Fried samosa-style dumplings sit on a white plate on a peach and white table, with a bottle of orange hot sauce to the side
Vegetable sambusa and hot sauce at Tawakal Halal Cafe
Rachel Leah Blumenthal/Eater

Galleria Umberto: Arancini and a Slice of Pizza

Copy Link

Galleria Umberto is open from 10:45 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and you should get there as early as you can — if you don’t, you risk missing out on both the arancini and the pizza. (I once waited in line for 20 minutes only to be cut as I approached the counter by a guy who was leading a pizza tour group of 25 hungry Europeans. They ordered the last of the arancini and the last of the pizza, and my afternoon was ruined. Don’t let this happen to you; get there early.) The arancini, or fried rice ball, is stuffed with beef and cheese and peas and is the best version of the thing I’ve eaten outside of Italy. The pizza is square-cut, typical of the sheet pan pizza of Sicily or so many Italian grandmothers, and it is topped with sauce and cheese only. The sauce is slightly sweet, and the cheese blisters slightly in the oven. I write about this place a lot; I do so for a reason. —TBD

A slice of cheese pizza and an open arancino, stuffed with rice, cheese, beef, and peas, on a simple round metal tray.
Arancini and a slice of cheese at Umberto
Terrence B. Doyle/Eater

Shy Bird: Snap Pea Salad

Copy Link

Shy Bird, the little sibling of Branch Line, carries the Watertown restaurant’s popular sugar snap pea salad. Bright greens dressed in almond vinaigrette with mint and ricotta, it’s a refreshing dish not to be missed. —DH

A fried chicken sandwich served on a Portuguese bun is in the foreground of the photo, with a stacked-high sugar snap pea salad and a roasted cauliflower sandwich in the background. Shot at Shy Bird in Cambridge.
Shy Bird’s sugar snap pea salad with the fried chicken sandwich and roasted cauliflower sandwich
Rachel Leah Blumenthal/Eater

Gene's Chinese Flatbread Cafe: Hand-Pulled Noodles

Copy Link

Greater Boston is becoming a mini-hub for biang-biang noodles, which are a kind of hand-pulled noodle typical of the Shaanxi province in northwestern China. While there are many fine options — MDM Noodles in Brighton, Noodles King in the Longwood Galleria, and Home Taste in Watertown each serve excellent versions — Gene’s is still the dopest of dope spots for hand-pulled noodles in and around Boston. Get them served with lamb and cumin-spiked oil, or get them served more simply and dressed with just chile oil. Fair warning: Gene’s is mostly a lunch and early dinner spot (it closes at 6:30 p.m. most days and isn’t open on Sundays), and it’s cash only. —TBD 

Co-sign. Gene’s noodles hold a top spot on my “if-I-ever-leave-Boston-I-need-to-eat-these-again-first” bucket list. Important note: If you don’t love garlic, you may want to avoid these. —RLB

A black plastic bowl of thick hand-pulled noodles, heavily dusted with chile powder and topped with greens and a generous dollop of garlic. A wooden skewer of lamb pieces sits across the rim of the bowl, which is on a Chinese Zodiac placemat on a red tray
Hand-pulled noodles with a lamb skewer at Gene’s Chinese Flatbread Cafe
Rachel Leah Blumenthal/Eater

Dumpling Cafe: Taiwan-Style Eggplant

Copy Link

I eat this dish six times a year. It is sweet and spicy and savory and garlicky, and its sauce is the perfect binder for scoops of white rice. Pair it with a side of Taiwan-style pan-fried pork dumplings, charred string beans, and fried pork intestine, and drink two or three bottles of Tsingtao while you’re at it. Chinatown is teeming with excellent restaurants, and yet whenever I’m there I always find myself going back to Dumpling Cafe—TBD

Bar Lyon: French Onion Soup

Copy Link

I’m cheating slightly: I ate this in the final week of 2018. Close enough to 2019 to count it, right? Bar Lyon impressed me. The Columbus Hospitality Group’s restaurants are always solid, but this feels like the most accessible of the bunch, the kind of place you can go to with some regularity, not just on special occasions. The French onion soup is currently the reigning champion on my French onion soup list, and if I lived closer, I would surely be at Bar Lyon’s bar weekly throughout the winter, sipping wine and eating soup. —RLB

French onion soup in a gold bowl on a wooden table
French onion soup at Bar Lyon
Rachel Leah Blumenthal/Eater

Singh's Roti Shop: Doubles

Copy Link

Singh’s is known for its roti, but go and ask for “doubles” with extra sauce and you’ll be presented with two pieces of delicately fried dough topped with a pile of spicy curried chickpeas. The restaurant makes its own signature sauce (you can buy jars of it), which is a mild, sweet, and perfect complement to the chickpeas. —DH

I’m co-signing this one, and I usually hate chickpeas, so to say that this was one of my favorite dishes of the year should tell you something. I think I even liked it better than the roti — but get both, if you have the appetite for it. —RLB

A serving of doubles — spicy and sweet chickpeas sandwiched between two pieces of fried dough — sits on white paper on a counter, illuminated by a glowing blue light
Doubles at Singh’s Roti Shop
Rachel Leah Blumenthal/Eater

Ba Le: Banh Mi

Copy Link

Dorchester, and especially Fields Corner, is home to a vibrant Vietnamese community. Unsurprisingly, it’s also home to a surplus of excellent Vietnamese food. Banh Mi Ba Le has been in business for nearly three decades and is slinging one of the best sandwiches in the city. Get the grilled beef — it was recommended by one of the restaurant’s cooks on my last visit — which comes with strips of sweet, charred beef and fresh vegetables and is served on a house-made baguette. Banh Mi Ba Le doubles as a Vietnamese market, so pick up some pantry items while you’re there. The restaurant has minimal seating (though it is planning to expand), so it’s best to take your banh mi to go. —TBD

Hands hold two banh mi over pavement
Banh mi from Ba Le
Rachel Leah Blumenthal/Eater

Loading comments...

Goldilox Bagels: Rosemary Salt Bagels

Around summer 2018, I got my first taste of some test bagels from the in-the-works Goldilox Bagels through some lucky friend-of-a-friend connections, and I fan-girled for them hard for the year leading up to the opening of the Goldilox storefront. Now the cheery little shop is open, and it’s bringing some serious bagel power to the Boston area’s somewhat lacking bagel scene. The rosemary salt bagel is the winner, but the rest are excellent as well. —RLB

A charred bagel with a bubbly crust is topped with rosemary and salt and sits on a wooden counter
A rosemary salt bagel from Goldilox
Rachel Leah Blumenthal/Eater

Semolina Kitchen & Bar: Tomato and Goat Cheese Pappardelle

It should come as no surprise that Semolina Kitchen serves delicious pasta, given its sibling and source is Dave’s Fresh Pasta of Somerville, but one of the pappardelle dishes on the dinner menu is truly spectacular. Globs of goat cheese melt slightly into a saucy coating that mellows out the pop of roasted cherry tomatoes nestled into pappardelle swirls with garlic and basil. —DH

Nighttime shot of the exterior of a restaurant, including an illuminated patio under wooden trellises. People are dining inside and out. Signage reads “Semolina & Bar”
Semolina Kitchen & Bar
Rachel Leah Blumenthal

Avenue Kitchen & Bar: Detroit-Style Pizza

A new spot up in Somerville, Avenue Kitchen & Bar serves a ton of interesting dishes, but of particular note is the Detroit-style square pizza, a rare find in New England. The crispy, almost caramelized crust comes loaded with a thick layer of cheese and tomato sauce spooned over top. It’s warm and bready and perfect for pairing with one of the restaurant’s local craft beers. —DH

Overhead view of a rectangular pepperoni pizza, with two horizontal strips of tomato sauce across
Pepperoni Detroit-style pizza at Avenue Kitchen & Bar
Rachel Leah Blumenthal/Eater

Dakzen: Khao Soi

Arguably the greatest of Thai soups, khao soi is a northern curry dish with a broth thickened by coconut milk and seasoned with chiles, ginger, and greens. Dakzen’s version comes with a choice of meat (or tofu, for any vegetarians out there), and it has a beautiful warming effect. —DH

One of my favorite dishes at one of my favorite restaurants. The tom yum noodle soup is also incredible if you want to change things up a bit. —RLB

Overhead shot of khao soi on a bright yellow surface. The bowl has a traditional Thai pattern on it, including a rooster. The khao soi includes pickled mustard greens, an egg, lime wedges, a nest of crispy noodles, and more.
Khao soi at Dakzen
Rachel Leah Blumenthal/Eater

Chalawan: Snapper Dumplings and Scallops

Chalawan has a vast and impressive menu of Southeast Asian dishes, and the steamed snapper dumplings stand out among the rest. Served with chile and black vinegar sauce, each dumpling can be eaten in one bite — with an extra spoonful of sauce, while you’re at it. —DH

I’m enthusiastically co-signing this one; Chalawan is probably my favorite new restaurant of the year overall. I agree with Dana that the snapper dumplings are special, and I also want to give a shoutout to the seared scallops topped with caramelized duck, which I find myself ordering on every visit. —RLB

Three white Asian-style soup spoons are lined up, each holding a scallop topped with caramelized duck. More plates of food are visible in the background.
Scallops at Chalawan
Rachel Leah Blumenthal/Eater

Manoa Poke Shop: Fried Chicken

Manoa Poke Shop closed its storefront at the beginning of 2019, shifting focus to its catering operations — a sad loss for Somerville as it was one of the Boston area’s first and best poke shops. But later in the year, the storefront reopened (although just on weekends), and it’s even better than before. I can’t get the fried chicken plate out of my head, and the addition of a weekly special, chile-glazed salmon belly, really took the plate to the next level. —RLB

A plate of fried chicken, white rice, mac salad, kimchi, greens, and a chile-glazed piece of salmon belly
Fried chicken plate with a weekly special (chile-glazed salmon belly) at Manoa
Rachel Leah Blumenthal/Eater

Celeste: Lomo Saltado

Shortly before Celeste opened early last year, I went to the intimate Peruvian restaurant to interview the owners and shoot some photos for a preview story. Chef and co-owner JuanMa Calderon fired up some lomo saltado for a photo, and suddenly the smell of the flames hitting that soy sauce-marinated beef triggered something in me, and I haven’t been able to get enough of the dish ever since. On a recent visit, my friends happily shared entrees with each other, while I hoarded a hefty order of lomo saltado all to myself. Not sorry. —RLB

A white bowl on a white table is full of chunks of cooked beef, tossed with slices of red pepper and tomatoes. The dish is topped with green herbs.
Lomo saltado at Celeste
Rachel Leah Blumenthal/Eater

Tanám: Pork Belly Asado Mini Siopao Sandwich

Bow Market is a treasure chest, and Tanám (our 2019 Restaurant of the Year) is one of its gems. There were a lot of dishes I ate throughout Bow Market this year that stand out in my mind, but Tanám’s pork belly mini siopao sandwiches — grilled Berkshire pork belly, cilantro, and asado sauce — top the list. They’re available on the Thursday night bar snacks menu, and you might feel the need to order 10 of them. They’re pictured here at Bow Market wine bar Rebel Rebel; you can carry food from any Bow vendor around the market freely. —RLB

Two soft buns stuffed with pork belly and greens sit on a plate on a light wooden bar, with a glass of white wine visible in the background
Pork belly buns from Tanám (at Rebel Rebel)
Rachel Leah Blumenthal/Eater

Rae the Baker Pop-Up at Field & Vine: Pretzeled Croissant

Rae the Baker” popped up at Field & Vine on Saturday mornings for a year and a half, serving long lines of fans the most perfect pastries. (The pop-up is now over, but she’s looking for a new space, permanent or otherwise, so stay tuned for updates.) While I will happily eat anything she bakes, I found the pretzeled croissant to be my favorite — buttery, salty, airy, just the right combination of the two treats. Honorable mention: the kouign amann-ish miso morning buns. —RLB

A pretzel-croissant hybrid and several other baked goods sit on white bakery paper
Pretzeled croissant and more from Rae the Baker
Rachel Leah Blumenthal/Eater

Puritan & Company: Any Dessert

Pastry chef Brian Mercury joined the Puritan & Co. team this year and immediately started turning out unbelievable desserts. They’re a sight to see, but even more stunning upon taste, particularly a raspberry sorbet with basil, Queen Anne’s lace jelly, and seeded crackers. —DH

Several scoops of bright red sorbet are served in a wooden bowl with delicate greens and seeded crackers
Raspberry sorbet at Puritan & Co.
Rachel Leah Blumenthal/Eater

Deluxe Town Diner: Sauteed Chicken Livers

I’m a sucker for eating or drinking anything inside an old-timey diner car. I love the Rosebud in Somerville, I love the Breakfast Club in Lower Allston, and I love the Deluxe Town Diner in Watertown. Its menu consists of classic diner fare, and it’s all solid, but my go-to here are sauteed chicken livers. They are served with onions and are tossed with a mix of herbs, and they have that slight irony taste typical of offal. These livers are low-key some of the best nasty bits available in greater Boston. —TBD 

Closeup shot inside a diner showing a neon sign that says “diner” on a rocket ship flying past Saturn
Deluxe Town Diner
Jacqueline Dole/Eater

Pammy's: Lumache

Pammy’s has been open for about two and a half years now, and I’ve been fortunate to squeeze in quite a few visits since it debuted, nearly always ordering the lumache, which is served in a rich and spicy Bolognese spiked with the Korean chile paste gochujang. I ate it on two opposing occasions this year, once in celebration and once in grief, and it was equally suited to both — a simple, heartwarming, comfortable meal. —RLB

A big white bowl on a white tiled surface, filled with lumache in a red sauce and garnished with a thinly sliced green herb.
Lumache at Pammy’s
Natasha Moustache

Tawakal Halal Cafe: Sambusa

Huddling into this tiny, bright East Boston restaurant on a cold and rainy night, I found great comfort in sipping spiced tea and snacking on the delicately fried vegetable sambusa, dipped in the excellent house-made hot sauce. It’s a restaurant I had been hearing raves about for months — years, really, since this was the rebirth of a popular restaurant that closed back in 2011 — and regretted waiting so long to try it. Now that I’ve been there, I can’t wait to return. —RLB

Fried samosa-style dumplings sit on a white plate on a peach and white table, with a bottle of orange hot sauce to the side
Vegetable sambusa and hot sauce at Tawakal Halal Cafe
Rachel Leah Blumenthal/Eater

Galleria Umberto: Arancini and a Slice of Pizza

Galleria Umberto is open from 10:45 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and you should get there as early as you can — if you don’t, you risk missing out on both the arancini and the pizza. (I once waited in line for 20 minutes only to be cut as I approached the counter by a guy who was leading a pizza tour group of 25 hungry Europeans. They ordered the last of the arancini and the last of the pizza, and my afternoon was ruined. Don’t let this happen to you; get there early.) The arancini, or fried rice ball, is stuffed with beef and cheese and peas and is the best version of the thing I’ve eaten outside of Italy. The pizza is square-cut, typical of the sheet pan pizza of Sicily or so many Italian grandmothers, and it is topped with sauce and cheese only. The sauce is slightly sweet, and the cheese blisters slightly in the oven. I write about this place a lot; I do so for a reason. —TBD