clock menu more-arrow no yes

The 38 Essential Boston Restaurants, April 2013

View as Map

Presenting Boston's updated Eater 38, your answer to any question that begins, “Can you recommend a restaurant?” This highly elite group covers the entire city, spans myriad cuisines, and collectively satisfies all of your restaurant needs, save for those occasions when you absolutely must spend half a paycheck. Every few months, we'll be adding pertinent restaurants that were omitted, have newly become eligible (restaurants must be open at least six months), or have stepped up their game.

For those of you readying the pitchforks because your favorite restaurant isn't on the list, wouldn't it just be more productive to leave your thoughts in the comments? State your cases for (or against) restaurants in the comments or through the tipline.


Added April 2013: Sportello, Lincoln Tavern and Restaurant, Puritan & Company, Chez Henri.

Added January 2013: West Bridge, Taberna de Haro, La Morra.

Added October 2012: The Helmand, jm Curley, Estragon, Tu y Yo, Matt Murphy's, Green Street.

Added July 2012: Bergamot, Casa B, Sweet Cheeks Q, Trade, Radius.

Added April 2012: Trina's Starlite Lounge, Catalyst, Salts, Jasmine Bistro, La Verdad, Dumpling Cafe.

Added January 2012: Harvest, Clio, The Butcher Shop, Eastern Standard, Oishii.

Read More
Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

1. Strip-T's

Copy Link
93 School St
Watertown, MA 02472
(617) 923-4330
Visit Website
A local legend of the prodigal son and former chef de cuisine at Momofuku Ssam Bar, who came home to run dad's diner and put lots of octopus on the menu.

2. T.W. Food

Copy Link
377 Walden St
Cambridge, MA 02138
(617) 864-4745
Visit Website
One of the intimate, chef-owned restaurants that have defined Cambridge restaurants in recent years and helped the city rival the best of Boston proper. Also, tobacco ice cream.

3. Tu y Yo

Copy Link
858 Broadway
Somerville, MA 02144
(617) 623-5411
Visit Website
The kind of Mexican restaurant that used to warn patrons that it didn't have burritos. One of the few local spots for grasshopper tacos and serving micheladas since before they were cool (for gringos).

4. Chez Henri

Copy Link
1 Shepard St
Cambridge, MA 02138
(617) 354-8980
Visit Website
A longtime (since 1994) Cambridge neighborhood favorite blending French and Cuban cuisine. The Cuban sandwich, available at the bar along with other casual offerings, is a local legend. Cocktails along the lines of a basil margarita and caipirinha.

5. Russell House Tavern

Copy Link
14 JFK St
Cambridge, MA 02138
(617) 500-6055
Visit Website
Many restaurants in Harvard Square don't bother to be good, relying instead on a steady stream of charm-drunk tourists. Not so here. Russell House Tavern comes out swinging with its delightfully long menu, thorough beer list and creative applications of offal.

6. Bergamot

Copy Link
118 Beacon St.
Somerville, MA 02143
(617) 576-7700
Visit Website
This 69-seat restaurant opened in 2010 and has helped pave the way for a new era of Somerville dining. The critics have praised Bergamot's synthesis of relaxed attitude and serious skill.

7. East by Northeast

Copy Link
1128 Cambridge St
Cambridge, MA 02139
(617) 876-0286
Visit Website
An intimate, Chinese-inspired small plates restaurant presided over by chef Phillip Tang, ExNE was named one of the "The Top 6 Places to Taste the New Asian Fusion" by Bon Appetit. In-house noodles, dumplings and bao blow away the competition, of which there is little.

8. Puritan & Company

Copy Link
1166 Cambridge St.
Cambridge, MA 02139
(617) 615-6195
Visit Website
The single most essential Boston-area restaurant of the moment, in that here chef-owner Will Gilson is more thoroughly tackling a fresh perspective on New England cuisine than anywhere else in the world.

9. Oleana

Copy Link
134 Hampshire St.
Cambridge, MA 02139
(617) 661-0505
Visit Website
One of the city's few restaurants with a vegetarian tasting menu, let alone one that diners regularly rave about. Oleana serves omnivores as well, with chef Ana Sortun imparting her well known Mediterranean accents in dishes like octopus with crispy Brussels sprouts.

10. Bondir

Copy Link
279A Broadway
Cambridge, MA 02139
(617) 697-6519
Visit Website
Bondir has just blown everyone away, most notably by being named one of the ten Best New Restaurants in America in 2011 by Bon Appetit in addition to racking up about as many local accolades as you can get. It took what a lot of restaurants were already doing - the classed up, local, rootsy thing - and managed to tighten the screws, add some flourishes and still make it distinct and feel fresh.

11. Hungry Mother

Copy Link
233 Cardinal Medeiros Ave
Cambridge, MA 02141
(617) 499-0090
Visit Website
There are other restaurants that do local ingredients, French technique or Southern recipes, but not under one roof. It's amazing that shrimp and grits can taste this good so far north.

12. West Bridge

Copy Link
1 Kendall Square
Cambridge, MA 02139
(617) 899-6088
Visit Website
Since opening in May, West Bridge quickly became the darling of Kendall Square, among many existing darlings. The French-inspired menu comes from Aquitane Bistro alumni chef Matthew Gaudet.

13. Area Four

Copy Link
500 Technology Square
Cambridge, MA 02139
(617) 758-4444
Visit Website
The restaurant Cambridge didn't know it was missing until it arrived. One of few Boston eateries that truly cater to the all-day crowd, Area Four and its attached coffee shop does equally well as a cafe, restaurant and bar. Wood fired pizzas dominate the menu but other delights such as blue fish pate are equally noteworthy.

14. Craigie on Main

Copy Link
853 Main St
Cambridge, MA 02139
(617) 497-5511
Visit Website
Craigie is known for making simple dishes like roasted chicken extraordinary by using advanced techniques and technology, and for serving dishes that are just plain extraordinary, like confit and roasted milk-fed pig’s head with spicy pumpkin sambal and boudin noir-hoisin sauce.

15. The Helmand

Copy Link
143 1st St
Cambridge, MA 02142
(617) 492-4646
Visit Website
Warmth exudes from this East Cambridge Afghani restaurant, which serves in-house flatbread baked in a wood-fired oven right in the dining area

16. Salts

Copy Link
798 Main St
Cambridge, MA 02139
(617) 876-8444
Visit Website
If this restaurant were human, this year it would be old enough to drink. Predominantly French menu, run by former F&W "Best New Chef" Gabriel Bremer.

17. Rendezvous

Copy Link
502 Massachusetts Ave
Cambridge, MA 02139
(617) 576-1900
Visit Website
Western Mediterranean accents appear on chef-owner Steve Johnson's menu, which is enhanced by a rooftop herb garden (in season). Sit at the bar for the full cocktail experience.

18. Green Street

Copy Link
280 Green St.
Cambridge, MA 02139
(617) 876-1655
Visit Website
People complained when Green Street Grill became Green Street and lost its Caribbean influences, but those people should shut up because this is still a great restaurant. And there's a telephone book for a cocktail menu.

19. Shanghai Gate

Copy Link
204 Harvard Ave
Allston, MA 02134
(617) 566-7344
Visit Website
Superbly executed Shanghai style dishes like lion's head meatball and xiao long bao manage to be just as flavorful as their Sichuan counterparts minus the heat. Considered by many to be the city's best Chinese.

20. Sichuan Gourmet

Copy Link
1004 Beacon St
Brookline, MA 02446
(617) 277-4226
Visit Website
This fourth location of Sichuan Gourmet offers the most balanced combination of blazing hot Sichuan dishes and classy atmosphere. Also, Scorpion Bowls.

21. Sweet Cheeks

Copy Link
1381 Boylston St.
Boston, MA 02215
(617) 266-1300
Visit Website
Since opening in November 2011, Top Chef star Tiffani Faison's barbecue ode has been nothing short of a smash hit. The biscuits are legendary, and there's now an outdoor beer garden to boot.

22. Island Creek Oyster Bar

Copy Link
500 Commonwealth Ave
Boston, MA 02215
(617) 532-5300
Visit Website
Island Creek Oyster bar looks more slick than the restaurant you would expect an oyster farm to operate, but it's no less legit. The seafood-centric menu straddles straightforward and fun.

23. Erbaluce

Copy Link
69 Church St
Boston, MA 02116
(617) 426-6969
Visit Website
Perhaps the only Boston restaurant to serve elaborately prepared sunflower buds, Erbaluce is no stranger to the title of the city's "best Italian restaurant."

24. Myers + Chang

Copy Link
1145 Washington St.
Boston, MA 02118
(617) 542-5200
Visit Website
What's not to like? Some dishes are Chinese, some Thai, some Vietnamese, and some a fantasy amalgam of various nationalities, but no one would dare call Myers+Chang Pan-Asian. One of the city's most vibrant restaurants, the atmosphere seems buoyed by a sense of chef Joanne Chang's other successes with Flour Bakery. The badass dragon on the window doesn't hurt either.

25. Coppa

Copy Link
253 Shawmut Ave
Boston, MA 02118
(617) 391-0902
Visit Website
Yes, charcuterie is now everywhere, but for good reason, and Coppa supplies those reasons in the form of salumi like beef heart pastrami. Plus, chef Jamie Bissonnette helped put offal back on the map. Also, pizza!

26. Picco

Copy Link
513 Tremont St.
Boston, MA 02118
(617) 927-0066
Visit Website
A regular on Boston pizza A-lists, Picco boasts some of the best value in the South End. Eat the pizza, salad, and/or in-house ice cream and you'll desire no better.

27. Franklin Cafe

Copy Link
152 Dorchester Ave.
S. Boston, MA 02127
(617) 269-1003
Visit Website
Even after The Franklin Cafe became known as an industry hangout, it remained an industry hangout. It's that good, which is why it has also expanded to new locations and concepts.

28. Lincoln Tavern & Restaurant

Copy Link
425 West Broadway
South Boston, MA 02127
(617) 765-8636
Visit Website
A welcome recent addition to the Southie scene, with what some consider to be the best pizza anywhere in town.

29. The Gallows

Copy Link
1395 Washington St
Boston, MA 02118
(617) 425-0200
Visit Website
Scotch egg, suckling pig tacos and at least three kinds of poutine. The dark humor in the name and decor continues through the menu, where heirloom vegetables appear alongside oysters "Rockafella."

30. Hamersley's Bistro

Copy Link
553 Tremont St
Boston, MA 02116
(617) 423-2700
Visit Website
A veteran of the dining scene for over 20 years, this restaurant's reputation is staked partly on its infamous roasted chicken. Over the years it has changed exactly as much as it should.

31. Toro

Copy Link
1704 Washington St
Boston, MA 02118
(617) 536-4300
Visit Website
Chef-owner Ken Oringer and chef Jamie Bissonnette team up for one of the city's hardest to get into restaurants. Toro serves modern and traditional tapas ranging from simple grilled corn to elaborate dishes pairing seafood and charcuterie with rich, bold flavors that keep the crowds lining up.

32. jm Curley

Copy Link
21 Temple Place
Boston, MA 02111
(617) 338-5333
Visit Website
This instant industry-approved classic has helped revitalize Downtown Crossing dining with its small, meaty menu, adult milkshakes, late-night dining and blunt rules for patrons.

33. Neptune Oyster

Copy Link
63 Salem St.
Boston, MA 02113
(617) 742-3474
Visit Website
The North End is generally known for Italian, which makes it all the more impressive that a seafood restaurant has made its name as one of the neighborhood's best places to eat.

34. Trade

Copy Link
540 Atlantic Ave
Boston, MA 02210
(617) 451-1234
Visit Website
This followup to Jody Adams' Rialto quickly became a favorite for its flatbreads and other oven-blasted main plates with Mediterranean accents.

35. Angela's Café

Copy Link
131 Lexington St.
East Boston, MA 02128
(617) 567-4972
Visit Website
Angela's is often cited by local diehards as Boston's best Mexican and continues to attract a steady flow of appreciative patrons despite its humble appearance and not particularly convenient to anyone outside of East Boston location. Flavors are simple yet deep: get the mole.

36. Matt Murphy's

Copy Link
14 Harvard St
Brookline, MA 02445
(617) 232-0188
Visit Website
When you think you want pub food, this is what you really want. Hearty stews, killer fish and chips, in-house ketchup and no white sugar on the premises.

37. Sportello

Copy Link
348 Congress St
Boston, MA 02210
(617) 737-1234
Visit Website
The most approachable of Barbara Lynch's local empire, where tagliatelle with bolognese rubs elbows with dishes like strozzapreti with braised rabbit. Lunch, dinner and weekend brunch are served on a diner-like counter. Doubles as a bakery with early-morning hours.

38. Ten Tables

Copy Link
597 Centre St
Jamaica Plain, MA 02130
(617) 524-8810
Visit Website
The flagship of an expanding mini-empire now in Cambridge, P-town and the burger biz.

Loading comments...

1. Strip-T's

93 School St, Watertown, MA 02472
A local legend of the prodigal son and former chef de cuisine at Momofuku Ssam Bar, who came home to run dad's diner and put lots of octopus on the menu.
93 School St
Watertown, MA 02472

2. T.W. Food

377 Walden St, Cambridge, MA 02138
One of the intimate, chef-owned restaurants that have defined Cambridge restaurants in recent years and helped the city rival the best of Boston proper. Also, tobacco ice cream.
377 Walden St
Cambridge, MA 02138

3. Tu y Yo

858 Broadway, Somerville, MA 02144
The kind of Mexican restaurant that used to warn patrons that it didn't have burritos. One of the few local spots for grasshopper tacos and serving micheladas since before they were cool (for gringos).
858 Broadway
Somerville, MA 02144

4. Chez Henri

1 Shepard St, Cambridge, MA 02138
A longtime (since 1994) Cambridge neighborhood favorite blending French and Cuban cuisine. The Cuban sandwich, available at the bar along with other casual offerings, is a local legend. Cocktails along the lines of a basil margarita and caipirinha.
1 Shepard St
Cambridge, MA 02138

5. Russell House Tavern

14 JFK St, Cambridge, MA 02138
Many restaurants in Harvard Square don't bother to be good, relying instead on a steady stream of charm-drunk tourists. Not so here. Russell House Tavern comes out swinging with its delightfully long menu, thorough beer list and creative applications of offal.
14 JFK St
Cambridge, MA 02138