clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

The 38 Essential Boston Restaurants, January 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.

New to this update: West Bridge, Taberna de Haro, and La Morra.

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.

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

Strip-T's

Copy Link

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.

T.W. Food

Copy Link

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.

Tu y Yo

Copy Link

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).

Chez Henri

Copy Link

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.

Russell House Tavern

Copy Link

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.

Bergamot

Copy Link

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.

East by Northeast

Copy Link

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.

Puritan & Company

Copy Link

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.

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.

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.

Hungry Mother

Copy Link

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.

West Bridge

Copy Link

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.

Area Four

Copy Link

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.

Craigie on Main

Copy Link

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.

The Helmand

Copy Link

Warmth exudes from this East Cambridge Afghani restaurant, which serves in-house flatbread baked in a wood-fired oven right in the dining area

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.

Rendezvous

Copy Link

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.

Green Street

Copy Link

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.

Shanghai Gate

Copy Link

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.

Sichuan Gourmet

Copy Link

This fourth location of Sichuan Gourmet offers the most balanced combination of blazing hot Sichuan dishes and classy atmosphere. Also, Scorpion Bowls.

Sweet Cheeks

Copy Link

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.

Island Creek Oyster Bar

Copy Link

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.

Erbaluce

Copy Link

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."

Myers + Chang

Copy Link

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.

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!

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.

Franklin Cafe

Copy Link

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.

Lincoln Tavern & Restaurant

Copy Link

A welcome recent addition to the Southie scene, with what some consider to be the best pizza anywhere in town.

The Gallows

Copy Link

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."

Hamersley's Bistro

Copy Link

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.

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.

jm Curley

Copy Link

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.

Neptune Oyster

Copy Link

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.

This followup to Jody Adams' Rialto quickly became a favorite for its flatbreads and other oven-blasted main plates with Mediterranean accents.

Angela's Café

Copy Link

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.

Matt Murphy's

Copy Link

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.

Sportello

Copy Link

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.

Ten Tables

Copy Link

The flagship of an expanding mini-empire now in Cambridge, P-town and the burger biz.

Loading comments...

Strip-T's

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.

T.W. Food