clock menu more-arrow no yes

The 38 Essential Boston Restaurants, July 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.

Your favorite restaurant isn't on the list? There are certainly more than 38 fantastic restaurants around town — and probably about 38 million different opinions — so don't hesitate to rip this list to shreds and say what you'd do differently in the comment section below.


Added July 2013: Highland Kitchen, Trina's Starlite Lounge, Oishii, Santarpio's, Dali, Rino's Place, Taranta, Troquet

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. 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.

4. 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.

5. 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.

6. 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.

7. Bondir

Copy Link
279A Broadway
Cambridge, MA 02139
(617) 661-0009
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.

8. 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.

9. West Bridge

Copy Link
1 Kendall Square
Cambridge, MA 02139
(617) 899-6088
Visit Website

Since opening just over a year ago, 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.

10. 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.

11. 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

12. 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.

13. 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.

14. 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.

15. 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.

16. 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.

17. 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."

18. 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.

19. 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!

20. 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.

21. 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.

22. 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."

23. 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.

24. 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.

25. 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.

26. 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.

27. 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.

28. 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.

29. 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.

30. 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.

31. Highland Kitchen

Copy Link
150 Highland Ave.
Somerville, MA 02143
(617) 625-1131
Visit Website

A regular haunt of practically everyone who has ever lived in Somerville's Spring Hill or Union Square in the last few years, Highland Kitchen specializes in comfort food, a lively ambiance, and strong cocktails. Try the spicy goat stew and the housemade ginger beer (also spicy).

32. Trina's Starlite Lounge

Copy Link
3 Beacon St
Somerville, MA 02143
(617) 576-0006
Visit Website

This cozy Somerville watering hole pairs hot dogs with classy cocktails in a retro lounge. The Monday "industry brunch" leaves diners happily full of chicken and waffles, homemade pop tarts, and Kool Aid du jour.

33. Oishii Boston

Copy Link
1166 Washington St
Boston, MA 02118
(617) 482-8868
Visit Website

The Chestnut Hill Oishii is tiny and classic, but the South End outpost is a sleek spot that's perfect for impressing dates and colleagues. From traditional sushi to a show-stopping dish with flaming salmon on a lemongrass stalk, every meal is beautiful.

34. Santarpio's Pizza

Copy Link
111 Chelsea St
Boston, MA 02128
(617) 567-9871
Visit Website

Santarpio's in Eastie is the place to go to shut up your obnoxious New York friends when they claim there's no good pizza in Boston. This classic joint is unassuming and rough around the edges, just the way it should be.

35. Dali

Copy Link
415 Washington St
Somerville, MA 02143
(617) 661-3254
Visit Website

One of the most beautiful restaurants in town, Dali is always the right choice for a romantic night out. It's lively, the tapas are delicious and meant to be shared, and it'll make you think you're in Barcelona. It's such a landmark that many Somerville residents call the Washington/Beacon/Kirkland intersection the "Dali Corner."

36. Rino's

Copy Link
257 Saratoga St
Boston, MA 02128

Yes, there's amazing Italian food outside of the North End. This Eastie gem has recently received a huge amount of attention thanks to a Food Network appearance, but locals have always known that it's the place to go for huge ravioli and excellent homemade pasta.

37. Taranta

Copy Link
210 Hanover St
Boston, MA 02113
(617) 720-0052
Visit Website

Peru meets Italy at this North End hotspot. Chef Jose Duarte is passionate about sustainability and traceability, and the restaurant is certified "green." Try the daily preparation of the paiche, a huge fish from the Amazon.

38. Troquet

Copy Link
140 Boylston St
Boston, MA 02116
(617) 695-9463
Visit Website

Lovely views of the common and proximity to a variety of theaters give Troquet an advantage location-wise, but the food is outstanding as well, and the wine list is deservedly award-winning. Plus, it's probably the only place you'll see servers scooping butter out of a giant basket that is completely full of butter.

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. Bergamot

118 Beacon St., Somerville, MA 02143

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.

118 Beacon St.
Somerville, MA 02143

4. East by Northeast

1128 Cambridge St, Cambridge, MA 02139