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The 38 Essential Boston Restaurants, July 2013

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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.

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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

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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.


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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.

Craigie on Main

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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

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


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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

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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

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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.

Sweet Cheeks

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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

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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.


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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

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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.

Lincoln Tavern & Restaurant

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

The Gallows

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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

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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

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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

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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.

Angela's Café

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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

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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.


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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

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

Highland Kitchen

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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).

Trina's Starlite Lounge

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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.