clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile
A spread of Greek food on a clear glass table over a platform of greenery. The dishes include a wild greens pie, gigantes, and more.
A spread of dishes from Greek restaurant Krasi in Back Bay.
Rachel Leah Blumenthal/Eater Boston.

The 38 Essential Restaurants in Boston

Where to find irresistible ceviche, spicy misir wet, heaping bowls of ramen, and so much more

View as Map
A spread of dishes from Greek restaurant Krasi in Back Bay.
| Rachel Leah Blumenthal/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, 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 one newcomer and one classic spot to the map: Greek showstopper Krasi in Back Bay, and West African destination Suya Joint in Roxbury.

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

For all the latest Boston dining intel, subscribe to Eater Boston's newsletter.

Read More
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

Copy Link

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.

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 Boston

Yume Wo Katare

Copy Link

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-centric 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.

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

Copy Link

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 Boston

While there are many Italian standbys in the Boston area, Cambridge’s 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. (A seafood-focused sibling spot, Moëca, opened right around the corner in August 2022.) 

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


Copy Link

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 a number 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 Boston

Brewer's Fork

Copy Link

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 Boston

Puritan & Company

Copy Link

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/Puritan & Co.

Santarpio's Pizza

Copy Link

Family-owned and operated since 1903 and serving pizza since 1933, Santarpio’s in East Boston is a no-frills landmark for New York-style pies — and the few non-pizza items on the menu aren’t too shabby, either (lamb skewers, steak tips, and sausage made in-house, all served with hot cherry peppers and fresh bread). There’s also a newer location on Route 1 in Peabody. Pizzeria Regina may win the classic duel for sheer expansion, but Santarpio’s pizza is unmatched.

The Santarpio’s building is light tan and has a giant sign on the side — dark brown with white and orange lettering — that reads “Santarpio’s Pizza Bar B-Q” and features a man holding a pizza
Santarpio’s Pizza in East Boston.
Terrence B. Doyle/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 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.

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 Boston

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. 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

Copy Link

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 Boston


Copy Link

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 Boston

Villa Mexico Cafe

Copy Link

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.

Haley Henry

Copy Link

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 Photography/Haley Henry

Gene's Chinese Flatbread Cafe

Copy Link

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 Boston

Taiwan Cafe

Copy Link

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.

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 Boston

Peach Farm

Copy Link

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 Boston


Copy Link

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/Sportello

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

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. New to Greek wines? Book a bar seat on Wednesday night from 5 to 8 p.m., when wine director Evan Turner takes over the bar and takes customers on an educated tour through four select Greek wines, complete with tastings.

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

Sweet Cheeks

Copy Link

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


Copy Link

You’ll forgive the name for being a bit on the nose when you sit at Frenchie and feel as if you’re in a bistro in Paris or Lyon rather than the South End. The space is elegant but not ornate, and the food is balanced between the reserved (apple and pear salad) and the indulgent (croque madame in all its runny-yolk glory). You can also dine outdoors; try a whole branzino, perhaps, at dinner. (The Frenchie team also has a restaurant in Cambridge, Colette, that is equally worth checking out.)

A whole roasted branzino in a pan, with a hand sprinkling salt over it, at Boston’s Frenchie
Branzino at Frenchie in the South End.
Brian Samuels Photography/Frenchie

Fox & the Knife

Copy Link

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 Boston

Kava Neo-Taverna

Copy Link

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 Boston

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 Boston

Blossom Bar

Copy Link

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


Copy Link

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; a seasonal fruit salad (currently 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

Suya Joint

Copy Link

In a city with no shortage of African restaurants, Suya Joint is an exemplary dining experience in Boston. 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

Copy Link

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 wet (one of six vegetarian sides included in the “veggie revenge” combo). Also worth a visit: Blue Nile’s sibling, Ethiopian Cafe, just a few doors down at 377 Centre Street.

El Oriental de Cuba

Copy Link

There are a number of excellent Cuban restaurants in and around Boston, and Jamaica Plain’s Centre Street is a feast in and of itself. The Cuban sandwich at El Oriental de Cuba is one of the best bites in the entire city. The exterior is crispy, and the interior is filled with savory pork and pickles, dressed with a gooey amalgamation of Swiss cheese and mustard. Its tropical shakes are refreshing; its Cuban iced coffee is perfect.