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A fried chicken sandwich on a metal serving tray.
Rubato’s fried chicken bolo.
Malakhai Pearson/Eater Boston

The 38 Essential Restaurants in Boston

Where to find irresistible ceviche, heaping bowls of ramen, dynamite dumplings, and so much more

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Rubato’s fried chicken bolo.
| Malakhai Pearson/Eater Boston

Welcome to Boston’s Eater 38, otherwise known as the answer to any question that begins with: “Can you recommend a restaurant?”

Whether new to Boston or a lifelong resident, an eater will find much to explore here: The city is lucky to have an incredible seafood-filled dining scene, for one thing, but there’s so much more, including spicy hand-pulled Xi’an-style noodles in a casual storefront, heaping bowls of ramen in a restaurant that wants its customers’ dreams to come true, and flavor-packed Mediterranean on a romantic patio to funky wines in intimate bars.

As such, 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, costs, and neighborhoods, collectively satisfying every restaurant need.

Every quarter, Eater Boston adds 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, a few restaurants are retired from the map each quarter — not necessarily forever — to make room.

This quarter, we welcome three new additions to the map: Comfort Kitchen and Rubato, two of the buzziest recent debuts in the city, as well as beloved izakaya and soba shop Sugidama in Somerville.

(Check out the Eater Boston Heatmap to find the hottest new restaurants in town right this very second.)

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Eater maps are curated by editors and aim to reflect a diversity of neighborhoods, cuisines, and prices. Learn more about our editorial process. If you buy something or book a reservation from an Eater link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics policy.

Spoke Wine Bar

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It’s amazing what can come out of a kitchen like the one at Spoke; it’s one of the tiniest in town, but you’d hardly know it from the beautifully composed small plates that play with seasonal ingredients and inspiration from around the world. One might dine on sambal cured mackerel, for example, with coconut, milk bread, and Thai basil, or savory doughnuts made with sunchokes. And it’s a wine bar, so don’t forget the wines, which dance around familiar and lesser-known regions. Cocktails with interesting ingredients — fermented plantain, habanada pepper, “secrets” — round out the menu.

A plate with slices of duck breast, whole peppers, and green apple slices fanned out on the dish.
Chilled coffee-poached duck breast served with apple slices and pickled pepper.
Erika Adams/Eater Boston

Sugidama

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A nearly decade-old staple of Somerville’s Davis Square, izakaya and soba shop Sugidama recently re-joined the restaurant scene after a nearly year-long hiatus while the spot moved down the block. The shiny, light-filled space is a calm, cozy respite where diners can dig into some of the best soba around Boston. The snappy buckwheat noodles are excellent, and Sugidama’s signature umami-rich broth is a smoky, savory delight. An array of sushi, donburi, and yakitori fill out the menu.

A large white bowl filled with a brown broth, soba noodles, and green lettuces.
A hot bowl of soba from Sugidama.
Erika Adams/Eater Boston

Yume Wo Katare

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This tiny Porter Square ramen destination calls itself a “dream workshop,” and encourages diners to literally stand up and share their goals out loud at the end of the meal. Aside from occasional seasonal specials, the simple menu typically only includes one type of pork ramen with a simple choice: two pork slices or five pork slices; and an optional heap of garlic in the bowl. Keep an eye on Instagram to track when the restaurant dabbles in those occasional specials.

An overhead photo of a bowl filled with pork slices, broth, and ramen noodles.
The famous pork ramen.
Erika Adams/Eater Boston

While there are many Italian standbys in the Boston area, Cambridge’s Giulia is an especially beloved destination thanks to its impressive take on the cuisine and its warm staff. If the pappardelle with wild boar is available, get it, but a diner can’t go wrong with anything at Giulia, especially among the meticulously made pasta dishes. Plan ahead; Giulia is in high demand, and reservations can be tough.

A shallow bowl filled with yellow pasta noodles topped with green arugula leaves and white parmesan shavings.
A satisfying bowl of pasta at Giulia.
Erika Adams/Eater Boston

This intimate Mexico City-inspired bar is the type of place connoisseurs of Latin American liquors can squeeze in shoulder-to-shoulder and have a stellar night making new friends while tasting sotol and bacanora. Those who are seeking a little more space can try out the festive sidewalk patio in warmer months; it’s the ideal spot to snack on tetelas and cactus salad with grasshoppers and drink mezcal-based variations on classic cocktails.

Interior of a small bar, dimly lit with green accents. The bar itself is lined with corrugated galvanized aluminum. The bar’s name, Barra, is hand-painted in thick black paint on the wall, and a spotlight casts lines through the leaves of a potted plant.
Inside Barra.
Rachel Leah Blumenthal/Eater Boston

Celeste

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Celeste, an Eater Boston Restaurant of the Year, is a dreamy little spot in Somerville’s Union Square, serving flavorful Peruvian in a neighborhood known for its Peruvian options. All are worthy destinations, but Celeste is the spot for bright ceviche, fragrant lomo saltado, and the feeling of sipping pisco as the honored guest at the joyfully crowded dinner party of co-founders JuanMa Calderon and Maria Rondeau.

A vibrantly colored portion of ceviche is presented on a white plate on a white table, with a glass of beer on the side.
Ceviche at Celeste.
Rachel Leah Blumenthal/Eater Boston

Taquería Jalisco

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Ask any local about the best Mexican restaurant in Boston, and the conversation will inevitably turn to Taquería Jalisco. For nearly 25 years, Bostonians have been packing into this welcoming little spot to get their hands on bowls of belly-warming pozole, tacos stuffed with juicy carnitas, spicy pork tamales, and some truly excellent scoops of rice and refried beans. Top off each order with a sweet, fresh fruit juice, including pineapple or tamarind.

An oval plate topped with a dark brown salsa and a tamale wrapped in a corn husk.
A pork tamale at Taquería Jalisco.
Erika Adams/Eater Boston

Moona is a delicious tribute to Eastern Mediterranean ingredients intertwined with New England seasonality. The snug, 30-seat restaurant starts with rigorously sourced pantry ingredients — such as olive oils, spice blends, and different molasses varieties — and goes to work from there, turning out sublime meze like a creamy eggplant fatteh with grape molasses, grilled shish tawouk (a Lebanese-style chicken kebab) with a garlicky, tangy dollop of toum, and golden-fried feta fritters drizzled with an orange blossom honey. The ratio of plates ordered to table space available is always a challenge at Moona, and that’s just part of the fun.

A small pile of fried orange fritters garnished with green diced scallions sits on a small blue plate.
The crowd-favorite feta fritters served with orange blossom honey.
Erika Adams/Eater Boston

Puritan & Company

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An homage to New England, Inman Square’s Puritan & Co. dresses up local classics beautifully. This isn’t your grandmother’s baked cod, unless she serves it wrapped in phyllo dough and with lobster stew on the side. It’s the place to go for spot-on scallops, roast chicken, and Parker House rolls, or buckle in for a chef’s-choice ride with the seasonal, five-course tasting menu for $75 per person.

A plate with a single square roll topped with flaky salt and a swirl of butter on the side.
A perfect Parker House roll at Puritan & Company.
Erika Adams/Eater Boston

Wusong Road

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One way to tell you’re about to have a great night? Take notice of a restaurant’s ability to transport you to a different locale once you step through the doorway. Wusong Road scores extremely high marks here. Chef and owner Jason Doo’s American Chinese restaurant and accompanying bar is a lush, tiki-filled escape. Sip on rum-soaked drinks, eat crab rangoons and maple pork dumplings, and enjoy the vacation.

Two wooden peacock-style chairs sit in front of an intricately carved wooden table in a tiki-themed restaurant.
Inside Wusong Road.
Rachel Leah Blumenthal/Eater Boston

This gem of Greater Boston goes hand in hand with its Somerville sibling, Sarma, in serving quality, memorable meals, drawing inspiration from Turkey and elsewhere around the Mediterranean coastline. The cozy restaurant has one of the most romantic patios around, and its seasonally rotating menu delivers a different experience with the same hospitality time after time. The restaurant has an inventive cocktail menu, with a wide array of sherry and aperitifs, and it’s famous for its baked Alaska dessert.

A tall baked Alaska with a tower of toasted meringue sits on a white plate in a pool of yellow sauce.
Oleana’s baked Alaska.
Erika Adams/Eater Boston

Lively and artsy and full of tropical greenery, not to mention furniture restored by cofounder and chef Vinh Le, Vietnamese restaurant and coffee bar Cicada transports its diners thousands of miles away with dishes like black rice topped with mushrooms and eggplant; noodle salad topped with cured salmon; and a selection of banh mi. In warmer weather, definitely snag a spot in the peaceful back garden.

Three banh mi with different fillings sit on a straw tray on a beige tiled floor
Banh mi at Cicada.
Cicada Coffee Bar

Regina Pizzeria

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Follow the neon red sign to one of the best pizzerias in town: Regina, a nearly 100-year-old Boston institution. You may see the bright Regina logo at plenty of other places in town — the pizzeria now has outposts in malls, grocery stores, and food halls — but for the quintessential Regina experience, nothing beats the North End shop.

Exterior of Regina Pizzeria in the North End.
Regina Pizzeria in the North End.
Lane Turner/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

Neptune Oyster

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It may be a couple of decades old, but North End seafood stalwart Neptune Oyster is still topping national best restaurant lists. Yes, it’s walk-ins only. Yes, there will be a line. If you’re lucky, you’ll nab a bar seat and settle into a plate of ice-cold oysters, a crisp glass of wine, and an unbeatable people-watching scene. You’ll be glad you waited.

An overhead photo of a lobster roll with a grilled hot dog bun and a pile of fries on the side.
A hot lobster roll and fries at Neptune Oyster.
Erika Adams/Eater Boston

haley.henry

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Haley Fortier’s 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; a spectacular wine list; a ship-like ambiance; and its sense of humor. This is the place to go for those who want to eat smoky sprats in oil, perfectly paired with a funky, hard-to-find wine. Also on the compact menu: “biggie small plates,” such as beef sliders; mix-and-match charcuterie boards, and, on the larger side, sirloin steak and salmon plates.

The interior of an intimate wine bar that has a bit of a nautical vibe.
The intimate bar at Haley Henry.
Brian Samuels Photography/Haley Henry

Gene's Chinese Flatbread Cafe

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Gene’s offers regional Xi’an cuisine, which is a little bit difficult to find elsewhere in Boston. While the restaurant’s name refers to the flatbread sandwiches stuffed with lamb or pork, the real highlight of the menu is the chewy, garlicky hand-pulled noodles. Add a skewer of cumin lamb and a tea egg or two on the side. Counter-service, no-frills, and only open for lunch and early dinner.

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 Boston

Taiwan Cafe

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Boston’s Chinatown is an essential dining destination for newcomers and locals alike, and Taiwan Cafe is one of its most reliable staples, serving an extensive selection of Taiwanese dishes as well as a bit of Sichuan cuisine. For the former, try the Taiwan-style pan-fried dumplings, the duck and cold beef over rice, and a roast beef scallion pancake roll; for the latter, the Sichuan-style white fish in chile oil always satisfies.

Slices of a flaky white fish sit in a fiery red broth in a metal bowl over a flame. It’s on a table inside a busy, casual restaurant.
Sichuan fish at Taiwan Cafe.
Rachel Leah Blumenthal/Eater Boston

Sushi lovers who have not yet embarked on O Ya's iconic 20-course grand omakase have not yet lived. And it's not just the seafood — the tender wagyu beef strip loin is stunning (with a price tag to match). Hidden in the Leather District, this tiny spot has accumulated numerous awards, including a James Beard for chef and co-owner Tim Cushman.

A piece of white fish on a colorful plate at sushi omakase restaurant O Ya
Hamachi from O Ya.
O Ya [Official]

Peach Farm

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Peach Farm is the quintessential Chinatown destination, known especially as a late-night haunt for Boston’s restaurant industry workers. Open until midnight, the busy basement space is still the place to go for lobster with ginger and scallions or roast duck or really anything from the enormous menu. (When in doubt, go for a seafood dish.)

A plate with a blue border embellished by birds holds a portion of lobster with scallions and ginger
Lobster with scallions and ginger at Peach Farm.
Rachel Leah Blumenthal/Eater Boston

Mooncusser

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Mooncusser can’t quite be contained in just one box. It’s fine dining, but it’s far from the hushed, stuffy image that phrase can conjure up in Boston. The experimental tasting menu riffs off of New England ingredients without getting bogged down by tradition, which makes it a fun, forward-thinking ride to buckle into for a night. If you like a particular dish, savor each bite, because chef Carl Dooley and his team rip up the menu and rewrite it every six weeks or so.

A white plate with scallops set in a creamy yellow sauce and topped with nuts, green grapes, and a green herb garnish.
Scallops and sliced grapes from a past Mooncusser tasting menu.
Erika Adams/Eater Boston

This lively spot is the embodiment of Boston’s modern New England seafood scene. 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, ultra-fresh seafood, and some of the best lobster rolls in town, this is one of the trickiest reservations to make. (Try the recently opened Cambridge spot or the suburban location in Burlington if you can’t get into this location.)

A lobster roll on a white plate with a side cup of slaw and potato chips.
A warm buttered lobster roll.
Michael Harlan Turkell/Row 34

Krasi, a swanky Greek wine bar and restaurant located just off of a bustling corner of Newbury Street in Back Bay, opened just before the pandemic hit in 2020. Now, you’ll be lucky if you score a reservation. The team is top-notch: Krasi’s executive chef Valentine Howell was a James Beard finalist in 2023, and expert wine director Evan Turner leads a bunch of fun programs at the restaurant, including a monthly wine club.

A spread of Greek food on a clear glass table that’s set over a platform of greenery. The table includes breads, dips, a glass of red wine, and more.
A spread of food at Krasi.
Rachel Leah Blumenthal/Eater Boston

Fox & the Knife

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The first solo restaurant from James Beard award winner Karen Akunowicz, Fox & the Knife was named one of the best new restaurants in the country when it opened in 2019, and today it remains Akunowicz’s love letter to Italian cooking, particularly the Emilia-Romagna region. Her stacked team consists of master bakers, pasta makers, and chefs who turn out beautiful dishes, such as spaghetti with clams, saffron, and tomato butter, and tagliatelle Bolognese; the cheesy focaccia is a must. Pair it all with an aperitivi flight.

Overhead view of a round white plate filled with bright green twists of pasta.
Campanelle al pesto di pistacchio at Fox & the Knife.
Sarah Storrer/Eater Boston

Kava Neo-Taverna

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Boston’s seen some major growth in its Greek food scene over the last few years, including openings like Kava Neo-Taverna, which debuted in 2016. The restaurant has really made a niche for itself in the South End with dishes like fried zucchini chips, keftedes, and oktapodi. In-the-know diners will save room for the honey-drizzled Greek yogurt dessert at this date-night spot.

A giant scoop of Greek yogurt sits on a plate, looking like ice cream and drizzled with honey and chopped nuts.
Greek yogurt at Kava Neo-Taverna.
Rachel Leah Blumenthal/Eater Boston

At Toro, industry heavyweights Ken Oringer and Jamie Bissonnette produced one of the city's most popular restaurants, period. Open for almost two decades in the South End, Toro serves modern and traditional Spanish tapas ranging from simple-yet-delicious pan con tomate to elaborate dishes pairing seafood and charcuterie with rich, bold flavors that keep the crowds lining up at the energetic spot. Definitely eat your way through plenty of small plates, but try the paella, too.

Two thick slices of bread topped with red tomato sauce, criss-crossed anchovies, and dollops of white cream.
Toro’s incredible pan con tomate.
Erika Adams/Eater Boston

Blossom Bar

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Blossom Bar, sibling to Woburn’s acclaimed Baldwin Bar, is one of Greater Boston’s top cocktail destinations, but it’s also worth visiting for the food. The emphasis is on Sichuan cuisine, with plenty of bold, spicy options available; try the Chengdu dry hot chicken, spicy dry rubbed beef brisket, and the pork dumplings with chile vinaigrette. An “American comfort” section rounds out the menu, such as chicken, beef, or shrimp stir-fry and General Tso’s chicken.

A boozy dole whip sits in a Blossom Bar branded glass, with a pineapple in the background.
Duan’s Whip at Blossom Bar.
Blossom Bar

Mahaniyom

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The concise menu at quirky, boozy Thai restaurant Mahaniyom features dishes you won’t readily find elsewhere in the Boston-area Thai scene — many of them small plates that pair particularly well with one of the restaurant’s tasty cocktails or a mild Thai lager. Fill up on crispy chicken skins; seasonal fruit salads like rambutan with fried shrimp and toasted coconut; salt-and-pepper pork cheek; and green papaya pad thai.

A Thai pomelo salad with shrimp, betel leaves, thinly sliced red chile, and a variety of crispy condiments sits in a black bowl on a wooden table in front of a brick background.
Yum som-o (pomelo salad), which appeared on Mahaniyom’s opening menu. The current salad features rambutan.
Rachel Leah Blumenthal/Eater Boston

Thistle & Leek

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Like other restaurants on this list, Thistle & Leek uses the New England seasons as a guidepost for the menu, shifting in vegetables like beets, tomatoes, carrots, and pumpkin throughout the year. But it’s the well-executed, globe-trotting experimentation — charred bok choy dressed in a lemongrass curry and sprinkled with peanuts; thick and sturdy romano beans piled over a black lime yogurt — that makes the restaurant an essential stop on this list. Apart from the seasonal fun, don’t miss the always-on-the-menu lamb meatballs, bathed in a subtle tomato and ginger curry and served with slices of puffy naan to scoop up every drop of sauce. Oh, and don’t forget dessert.

A small metal dish with two handles on either side, filled with a red sauce, three meatballs, a parsley garnish, and two slices of naan tucked on the side of the bowl.
Lamb meatballs in a tomato and ginger curry at Thistle & Leek.
Erika Adams/Eater Boston

Suya Joint

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Amid Boston’s impressive African restaurant scene, Suya Joint is an exemplary dining experience in the city. Nigerian chef and owner Cecelia Lizotte oversees a menu of delicious West African fare, including an outstanding rendition of egusi stew, a Nigerian staple thickened with ground pumpkin seeds, and suya chicken wings coated in a subtly spicy seasoning blend.

The Oxtail Pepper Stew, $8.75, shown with pounded yam fufu, at right, taushe (peanut soup) at back left, and stewed black eyed peas, back right. 
Suya Joint’s oxtail pepper stew with pounded yam fufu, taushe (peanut soup) and stewed black-eyed peas.
Dina Rudick/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

Blue Nile

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For unbeatable Ethiopian food and house-made tej, or honey wine, head to JP’s Blue Nile, a handsome restaurant where you can use tangy injera to scoop up saucy specialties ranging from tender lamb to spicy red lentil dish misir wat (one of six vegetarian sides included in the “veggie revenge” combo).

Scoops of veggies, lentils, and chicken on a platter lined with injera.
A combo platter at Blue Nile.
Erika Adams/Eater Boston

Merengue Restaurant

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This restaurant has been dishing out Dominican food on Blue Hill Avenue for a quarter of a century. Merengue’s excellent cocktail list includes a number of frozen daiquiris (get the passionfruit), as well as a variety of margaritas and mojitos. The grilled chicken with chimichurri sauce and the stuffed shrimp tostones are must-orders, as are the fried pork chops and grilled steak with peppers and onions. Oh, and the mofongo is among the best in the city.

Tres Gatos

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Jamaica Plain mainstay Tres Gatos puts several of life’s finest pleasures together in a single eclectic destination: Snack on Spanish tapas including lamb bocadillos, gambas al ajillo, and boquerones in an old house while sipping on cocktails and then saunter to the record store out back, with shelves packed full of records and books in numerous genres.

A mixed seafood and meat paella with clams and head-on shrimp, garnished with green sprigs of parsley.
The paella is worth the extra wait time.
Erika Adams/Eater Boston

Comfort Kitchen

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A beloved pop-up gone permanent in Dorchester’s Upham’s Corner, Comfort Kitchen has made many waves since its debut in January 2023. It nabbed a five-star review in the Boston Globe, was named one of the New York Times50 best restaurants of 2023, and was honored on Eater Boston’s 2023 awards list. The restaurant explores the African diaspora and global spice trade routes by way of standout dishes like a za’atar brown butter trout, seared okra with masala-spiced yogurt, and jerk-roasted duck legs. Pair anything and everything with a well-balanced drink from Comfort Kitchen’s exemplary cocktail program.

A whole roasted fish set over a smoked eggplant puree and tomato salad, and topped with a green onion chimichurri.
Comfort Kitchen’s crispy, delicious za’atar brown butter trout.
Erika Adams/Eater Boston

Singh's Roti Shop

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Roti, a dish that originated in the West Indies (specifically in Trinidad), consists of curried stew served with or wrapped by a flatbread that is similar in constitution and taste to the kind you’d find on the Indian subcontinent. While there are several fine roti shops in Boston, the house-made hot sauce at Singh’s pushes this Dorchester Avenue spot ahead of the competition. Order the goat roti, and get doubles, too, a dish that sandwiches sweet and spicy chickpeas between two delicately fried pieces of dough.