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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 and a beer at Celeste.
Rachel Leah Blumenthal/Eater

The 38 Essential Restaurants in Boston

Where to find irresistible ceviche, spicy hand-pulled noodles, heaping bowls of ramen, and so much more

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Ceviche and a beer at Celeste.
| Rachel Leah Blumenthal/Eater

Presenting Boston’s updated Eater 38, the answer to any question that begins, “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, from spicy hand-pulled Xi’an-style noodles in a casual storefront to heaping bowls of ramen in a restaurant that wants its customers’ dreams to come true to 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 a few newcomers and a few classic spots to the map: Blossom Bar in Brookline, Branch Line in Watertown, Dear Annie in Cambridge, Seabiscuit in East Boston, Spoke Wine Bar in Somerville, Taiwan Cafe in Chinatown, and Tres Gatos in Jamaica Plain.

For details on past 38 entries, consult the Eater 38 archive. And do check out the Eater Boston Heatmap to find the hottest new restaurants in town right this very second.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.
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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 duck hearts with a fresh cherry and whiskey glaze. And it’s a wine bar, so don’t forget the wines, which dance around familiar and lesser-known regions. (Have you ever had a moscato from Mexico?) Cocktails with interesting ingredients — shiitake, dill — round out the menu. (Proof of vaccination required for diners over 12.)

Find Thai restaurant Dakzen, an Eater Boston Fast-Casual Restaurant of the Year, in Somerville’s Davis Square. The busy, well-lit restaurant has an aura of happy chaos, with a service model that falls somewhere between counter-service and full-service and a menu that doesn’t shy away from heat and funk. Those familiar with the breadth of Thai flavors — beyond Thai-American takeout staples — will be delighted to find exemplary versions of them here, and newbies will quickly learn what they’ve been missing. Highlights include the khao soi, the tom yum noodle soup, and the ba mee moo dang.

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

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 — but only if they successfully finish a giant bowl of ramen, which serves as a metaphor for perseverance. Aside from occasional seasonal specials, the simple menu typically only includes one type of ramen — “Jiro-style,” heavy on pork and garlic — with a choice of adding extra noodles and/or extra pork to an already hearty portion.

Ramen noodles and slices of pork are stacked impossibly high in a white bowl, topped with ample garlic.
Ramen at Yume Wo Katare.
Yume Wo Katare

Dear Annie

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With intriguing wines and an always-changing pescatarian menu in a convivial atmosphere, Cambridge wine bar Dear Annie, a 2021 arrival, is already making a splash. It’s no surprise, really, as it’s the result of a collaboration between the teams from two local favorites, wine bar Rebel Rebel and all-things-seasonal restaurant Field & Vine. Go at an off-peak time if you don’t like getting cozy with strangers: Dear Annie doesn’t take reservations, and most seats are at a big communal table.

A blue plate on a white background is covered with spiced chunks of turnips, garnished with mint leaves and sliced kumquats.
Turnips with kumquats at Dear Annie.
Rachel Leah Blumenthal/Eater

While there are many Italian standbys in the Boston area, Giulia is an especially beloved destination thanks to its impressive cuisine and 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. (Later in 2022, stay tuned for the opening of a sibling spot, Moëca, right around the corner.) 

Closeup shot of thick pasta noodles covered in red sauce and grated parmesan cheese on a green ceramic plate.
Pasta at Giulia.
Giulia

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 pulque. In these continuing pandemic times, those who are seeking a little more space can try out the festive sidewalk patio, 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.
Barra in Somerville.
Rachel Leah Blumenthal/Eater

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 that — to be fair — already has its fair share of 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 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 is a tiny, worker-owned restaurant located in a busy food and retail development in Somerville (and an Eater Boston Restaurant of the Year). Its story is told through hands-on, kamayan-style feasts or snacks and cocktails, depending on the night. While the restaurant began with a focus on Filipinx American offerings, going forward it is shifting to a wider interpretation of its genre of “narrative cuisine,” featuring other POC chefs and their stories through seasonal residencies. (Proof of full vaccination required for indoor dining for those ages five and up.)

Cut mango, sliced cucumbers, sausages, and other meats form a spread atop banana leaves in a kamayan-style Filipino dinner.
A kamayan feast at Tanám.
Rachel Leah Blumenthal/Eater

Juliet, an Eater Boston Restaurant of the Year, has a lot of heart. Since its 2016 opening, diners can find anything from a takeout breakfast taco and a cup of coffee to a fancy multi-course dinner (and many things in between), all in one cozy space. Juliet tries to be a lot of things and somehow manages to succeed at all of them. Stay tuned for a more refined focus with an upcoming move to a larger space next door, where Juliet will more openly dial into the Niçoise bistro inspiration that has been quietly underlying the menu all this time. (Proof of vaccination is required for indoor dining for diners over 12 years old.)

French onion soup on a white background with a plastic cup of iced coffee nearby.
French onion soup at Juliet.
Rachel Leah Blumenthal/Eater

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 (the “killa B” pizza, topped with salami and local hot honey, is a must-try), but there are also hearty brunch sandwiches, oysters, and one of the best beer lists around. The patio is the place to be.

A casual bar at a restaurant with gray bricks along the wall, a polished cement floor, and wooden bar chairs.
The bar at Brewer’s Fork.
Katie Chudy/Eater

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 with lobster stew, salt cod fritters, and wax beans. It’s the place to go for spot-on scallops, roast chicken, and Parker House rolls, but it’s also the place one might find a kimchi hot dog, bar pizza, or wings.

A white dish is topped with an upscale-looking mix of asparagus and other ingredients.
An asparagus dish at Puritan & Co.
Caitlin Cunningham

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 Middle East. 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. Operating with a cordials license, the restaurant has an inventive cocktail menu, with a wide array of sherry and aperitifs, and it’s famous for its baked Alaska dessert. (Proof of vaccination is required for all adults and eligible children.)

A dramatic baked Alaska dessert full of toasted meringue sits on a brown plate, the background of the photo obscured in shadows.
Baked Alaska at Oleana.
Rachel Leah Blumenthal/Eater

Pammy's

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Chris and Pam Willis call their hospitable Cambridge restaurant, Pammy’s, a “new American trattoria,” but the Italian influences are strong, from the not-to-be-missed pasta dishes made with flour milled at the restaurant to the selection of digestifs. The space is charming, as is the staff, and the lumache with a gochujang-spiked Bolognese sauce belongs in every pasta enthusiast’s regular rotation.

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

Vietnamese cafe and natural wine bar Cicada is one of the most exciting additions to the Boston-area dining scene in recent years. Lively and artsy and full of tropical greenery, not to mention furniture restored by cofounder and chef Vinh Le, Cicada transports its diners thousands of miles away with dishes like black rice topped with lemongrass duck confit; noodle salad topped with cured salmon; and a selection of banh mi. Watch Instagram for news of special dinner events, where the cafe shines especially bright. 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

Tawakal Halal Cafe

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Tawakal Halal Cafe is a story of rebirth: The Somali restaurant used to operate in a different part of East Boston, with a slightly different name, and had quite a loyal following before closing in 2011. After a seven-year hiatus, it made a comeback at a new address, and it’s better than ever. Tawakal’s ambiance is casual and homey, and its menu highlights not just Somali cuisine but draws influence from elsewhere around East Africa and the Middle East. The sambusas — embellished with the house-made, mango-based hot sauce — are a must, as is the beef hilib tawakal plate, in which chapati strips cooked in a spiced tomato sauce take on a texture similar to Thai drunken noodles.

Overhead view of two Somali dishes on a pale peach tablecloth with white accents. One dish is chapati strips cooked in a tomato sauce with chunks of beef; the other is a beef biryani with multi-colored rice in shades of yellow and orange.
Tawakal plate (left) and beef biryani at Tawakal Halal Cafe.
Rachel Leah Blumenthal/Eater

Seabiscuit

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East Boston newcomer Seabiscuit is such a unique spot: Australian meat pies, year-round patio dining, and incredible skyline views hidden in the midst of an art-filled shipyard. Locals will remember the beloved Australian meat pie shop that previously occupied the space, KO Pies; the new owners are keeping its legacy (and recipes) alive while adding some of their own flourishes, like baked goods. (The Seabiscuit team formerly ran the Biscuit, a longtime Somerville cafe.) Don’t be afraid of change — just swing by and eat some pie.

A small round savory pie sits on a red tray with a brown glass bottle of Bundaberg ginger beer visibile in the background.
Beef stew pie and Australian ginger beer at Seabiscuit.
Rachel Leah Blumenthal/Eater

Branch Line

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Branch Line’s star dish, rotisserie chicken, may make it sound ultra-casual, but it’s actually a full-service destination for everything from an energetic evening out with the kids to a special occasion over a nice bottle of wine. The heated patio is always comfortable, the hospitality is top-notch, and the beer list has some under-the-radar picks. Try the piri piri chicken with garlic fries, and don’t ignore the salads — the sugar snap pea salad, in particular, is one of Greater Boston’s best restaurant dishes.

Overhead view of two silver platters of rotisserie chicken, with some of the pieces coated in a spicy-looking red-orange sauce.
Branch Line’s rotisserie chicken (original on the left, piri piri on the right).
Rachel Leah Blumenthal/Eater

Villa Mexico Cafe

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A decades-old staple once located inside a Beacon Hill gas station and now in its own downtown Boston space, the casual takeout spot Villa Mexico is run by Julie King, her daughter Bessie, and a friendly team that churns out burritos (which are notably grilled), tacos, and more, all from scratch. The signature black salsa is a local favorite, and the restaurant is an especially popular lunch stop for Financial District workers.

Villa Mexico’s chicken burrito.
Villa Mexico’s chicken burrito.
Villa Mexico Cafe/Facebook

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 Portuguese tinned smoked eels, perfectly paired with a funky, hard-to-find wine. Also on the compact menu: “biggie small plates,” such as brisket sliders; “bone thugs & charcuterie,” such as lamb tartare; and more.

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

Gene's Chinese Flatbread Cafe

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Gene's offers Xi'an-style Chinese cuisine, a little bit difficult to find elsewhere in Boston, and while the restaurant's name refers to the flatbread sandwiches stuffed with beef 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

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

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.

Five square slices of rare steak are lined up on a white plate, on a bed of thinly sliced potatoes.
Seared petit strip loin at O Ya.
Rachel Leah Blumenthal/Eater

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 in non-COVID times. Open until midnight, the busy basement space is still the place to go for lobster with ginger and scallions or Peking 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

Saltie Girl

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This Back Bay restaurant is a seafood lover’s paradise. Saltie Girl boasts a large selection of seafood dishes that touch on so many different genres. A single table might have everything from a raw bar tower to whole fried black bass for two to fried lobster and waffles, and there are plenty of imported tins of seafood as well.

Slices of torched salmon sit atop slices of charred avocado on a rectangular white plate. It’s all topped with microgreens.
Torched salmon at Saltie Girl.
Saltie Girl

Sportello

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Of acclaimed Boston restaurateur Barbara Lynch’s fine-dining restaurants, Sportello, located in Boston’s Fort Point neighborhood, is perhaps the most approachable in terms of prices and vibe, while still showing off that signature Lynch magic. Minimalist diner meets trattoria with a small open kitchen, counter seating, and a menu of pleasing pastas and more. And oh, that spicy tomato soup.

A spread of Italian dishes — including salumi, olives, and more — on a bright white surface
A spread of dishes at Sportello.
Pat Piasecki

This lively spot — a self-proclaimed "workingman's oyster bar" — is the embodiment of Boston's current New England dining 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 suburban location in Burlington if you can’t get into the Boston one.)

A whole cooked fish — small and silver, with dark stripes running across — sits on a round white plate with some greens on top.
A whole fish at Row 34.
Row 34

Sweet Cheeks

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The first of chef and restaurateur Tiffani Faison’s Fenway businesses, Sweet Cheeks has been a reliable barbecue destination for over a decade, serving high-quality smoked meats and can’t-miss biscuits. Grab a seat on the sunny patio and enjoy hearty trays of ribs, sides like mac and cheese and “church basement” potato salad, and something from the extensive bourbon selection.

A sidewalk patio full of patrons outside of a restaurant with “BBQ” signage.
The sidewalk patio at Sweet Cheeks.
Sweet Cheeks

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 lasagna verde and tagliatelle Bolognese; the cheesy focaccia is a must. Pair it all with an aperitivi flight. (For a taste of southern Italy, head down the street to Fox & the Knife’s younger sibling, Bar Volpe.)

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

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 loukaniko, keftedes, and oktapodi. In-the-know diners will save room for the honey-drizzled Greek yogurt dessert at this date-night spot. Reservations are highly encouraged but can only be made the same day.

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

Chefs and owners Ken Oringer and Jamie Bissonnette team up for one of the city's most popular restaurants, period. Toro, open for more than a decade in the South End, serves modern and traditional Spanish tapas ranging from simple grilled corn 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.

Mussels, shrimp, and clams sit atop a skillet of rice and vegetables
Paella at Toro.
Rachel Leah Blumenthal/Eater

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. What Blossom Bar describes as “American comfort” rounds out the menu, such as boneless spareribs, crab rangoon, 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