You are probably familiar with the idea of “greatest hits”, but this guide is more than a list of our top-rated spots. This guide is a selection of places that we believe every Bostonian should visit at least once. It also includes recommendations for restaurants to prioritize if you are new to the area.
We wouldn’t send anyone to Boston without first introducing them to “Hotel California” or The Eagles. It’s not right.
ISLAND CREEK OYSTER BAN
According to rumours, Space Boston will only be able to accommodate one seafood restaurant when humanity travels to Mars to make a new Earth. Island Creek Oyster Bar is the restaurant that will be representing New England’s platonic seafood ideal. The Island Creek Oyster Farm opened the Kenmore Square location. They probably know more about how to make delicious seafood than anyone. This place is a great choice for any occasion due to its extensive menu and brunch options.
Ask enough people and you will soon realize that this vibrant Winter Hill Mediterranean spot is everybody’s favorite. Although we don’t succumb to peer pressure, in this instance, it might be worth listening to the wisdom of the crowd. Although this is the longest Boston menu, it’s also one of the most delicious. You will be delighted with just a handful of the Middle Eastern small plates. They are bursting with flavor. This is just a bonus. It’s extremely difficult to get a table at this restaurant, even though it is located in an empty area of Somerville, behind the high school. You can make a reservation by arriving before 7pm to grab a seat at the bar. Here you can look over the prep station and ask bartenders for whatever you want.
Toro will make it seem like you have more friends than you do, so that you can try as many of the South End tapas places. It has a lot of high-end tables and great drinks. We would try to go there at least once per week if it wasn’t so difficult to get in. You’re missing summer if you don’t leave work at 8 a.m. every day to take advantage of Toro’s sidewalk tables.
This half-nightclub/half-izakaya is one of Boston’s flashiest restaurants. We mean it in a positive way, for once. While you can enjoy sushi and sashimi here, it’s better to focus on small plates and order as many as possible. You don’t have to be afraid of ordering things that might seem like gimmicks. Tableside hot rocks are used for cooking wagyu meat, nitrogen cocktails, and $16 worth of caviar, sea urchin, or quail egg. It’s all amazing, and the spoon is well worth it.
We are not referring to any food court offshoots that you might find in Greater Boston. The original Regina’s, located on Thatcher Street in North End, has been around since before Great Depression. Although the Green Line doesn’t prove that age alone is a guarantee of greatness, it is a good starting point for a pizza shop. Although you can’t order slices, it’s okay because you’ll enjoy lingering over a whole pizza and a pint of beer in a place as casual as your Saturday morning hoodie. This is the best place to get pizza in the city.
Pagu is a Japanese-Spanish fusion. Once you sit down, it becomes fusion food. It’s just really, really good food. This small plate restaurant is great for sharing with friends before you head out to Central Square. The whole suckling pork roast is a great choice for groups, especially if you’re looking for the best group dining experience in the city. This place is not new to us, so make sure you book in advance.
KAVA NEO TAVERNA
The first thing you will notice when you enter Kava Neo Taverna, in the South End is the huge mural depicting an old fisherman looking over the dining area. His face is a mixture of a shaved, weathered, and sad expression. You’ll quickly understand his sadness that he has to work on drywall, while you can enjoy Kava’s perfectly cooked octopus. This cozy little spot on Shawmut Ave. is going to be your go-to place for midweek meals when you don’t feel like cooking. Before you go, raise a glass to the old fisherman – not to say goodbye but to let him know you’ll be returning.
While we won’t tell you to spend your entire paycheck at O Ya in one night, if you have a corporate credit card or something to celebrate, this Leather District sushi restaurant might be the best thing you can do in Boston. You can expect to find perfect fish cuts and truffles paired with caviar, gold leaf, and truffles. O Ya’s omakase will be one of your most memorable meals.
We would love to live in Coppa. We’ll be going to Coppa for dinner every night, even though it doesn’t offer a shower, Netflix, or a couch. The small dishes are delicious (try the oysters and meatballs), but there are some great pizzas (especially the one with bone marrow). It’s the pastas that make this place so special. Coppa is one of our favorite Italian restaurants. You can sit outside on a summer evening, or inside with a friend.
Juliet is included in this list because, despite the prose poem on their menu, it’s the most casual fine-dining restaurant that we have ever seen. This Union Square restaurant feels more like a casual gathering in your friend’s charmingly messy apartment than a fancy French restaurant. Although your friend is unlikely to be able to prepare a five-course tasting menu using hyper-local ingredients, it’s possible that they can create one that changes every few weeks with a consistent theme. It’s affordable, at $65 per person, and gratuity included, so it’s a great way to impress your date.
Neptune Oyster is almost impossible to enter. You also know it is crowded and full of tourists. It’s not the oyster bar you’d expect. You can grab a seat at the bar if you happen to be walking by it. It doesn’t matter if you have just had a beer and eaten a bowl of spaghetti bolognese all by yourself. We are happy to help you grab that bar seat and get you ready for round 2. It’s worth it to walk home with a lobster roll, crudi, or johnnycake.
MYERS & CHANG
Myers & Chang offers every flavor in the spectrum. There are also a few that have yet to be identified by taste scientists. Is there a taste scientist? We’re submitting our application to MIT if that is the case. The South End Asian Fusion small plates restaurant is small and packed full of people enjoying charred noodles or dumplings. This is the kind of dinner party you wish that you could throw – but you don’t have.
CRAIGIE ON MAAIN
Craigie on Main offers a variety of New England-inspired dishes, including Maine lamb and Essex clams. It’s also proof that fine dining does not have to be complicated. Enjoy great cocktails and the tasting menu at your next small-group dinner or date night.
Saltie Girl is one of the few oyster bars that offers Japanese, Spanish, Italian and classic New England seafood. Although it is small and packed almost every day, it feels almost like a party. It’s a great option for those who can’t decide what they want to eat. There’s a good chance you’ll be back again after you’ve been once.
Tell your family and friends that you would like to be buried in Mount Auburn before you die. Not because Mount Auburn is a beautiful, historic cemetery, but because you will be near Sofra if you are. Sofra, a counter-service Mediterranean café/bakery in West Cambridge, is owned by Oleana and Sarma. It serves delicious breakfast and lunch mezzes. You can get the Turkish breakfast or shakshuka if you are in the mood for breakfast. But you won’t be able to leave without trying the chicken wings. They’re not as good as what you would find in a bar on Sunday. You won’t be disappointed if you order baklava as a dessert.
A fancy omakase can be enjoyed at the bar. Hours of delicious sushi look and taste like they belong in a museum. We can’t afford to eat sushi every day, so Cafe Sushi in Harvard Square is a great alternative. This place isn’t just for midweek meals. The simple name fits well because it’s a low-key spot on a multi-level retail strip. Cafe Sushi is the kind of food you want to have for a special occasion, even if you don’t want to share your anniversary with a bunch of undergrads who don’t know what omakase is. You’ll likely find some new nigiri here – such as Bluefish, which is not a favorite seafood type, but the pickled version has the power of changing a lot of people’s minds. O Ya can be saved for the Powerball jackpot that you will definitely hit one day. Cafe Sushi offers a $100 omakase, as well as a range of a la carte choices.
Although we don’t know what constitutes a neighborhood restaurant, it appears that everyone who visits Ten Tables in Jamaica Plain seems to know each other. We would be there almost every night if we lived near the restaurant. For perfectly cooked chicken or a couple of delicious pasta dishes, the regular menu is well worth it. You should also consider coming for a themed prix-fixe night. They do this often. We love the Tuesday night wine dinner. It offers a theme menu and paired wines. The tasting notes are longer than a Russian novel.
We would like to open a restaurant with a large outdoor area, a bar with regulars and awkward first dates, and 30 crystal decanters that can be turned into light fixtures. SRV already has the experience to open a restaurant. If you don’t think SRV is the right place for you, then maybe you should open your own restaurant. We’re not so sure your squid-ink bucatini will be as delicious.