14 of The Best Restaurants in Boston

Boston deserves far more attention for its food scene than the city usually gets. From reinvented lobster rolls and other fresh seafood to small plates put out by James Beard-award winning chefs, there’s a near-dizzying selection of good eats to choose from. You’ll want to add extra days to your trip as you start to wend your way through menu options featuring coastal Italian food, clam chowder and raw bars, dry-aged steaks, wood-grilled pizzas, upscale tinned fish (yes, really), and so much more.

1363 Boylston Street
Top Chef finalist Tiffani Faison showed off her versatility in opening Tiger Mama, her second restaurant, as an un-Americanized Asian-fusion concept—wildly different than Sweet Cheeks Q, her Boston barbecue joint. What’s similar is Tiger Mama’s Fenway location and its creative take on traditional preparations, in this case Thai, Malaysian, and Vietnamese dishes grouped under general headings (like Cold & Fresh, Crispy & Spicy, Rich & Earthy, and Noodles & Rice) to aid in navigating the maybe-unfamiliar names of dishes. The short-rib crudo is the go-to starter; “pig rice” is a typically generous portion of rice mixed with bacon, tasso ham, and Isaan sausage, sprinkled with pork floss; and the tiki drinks will flow as the sharing plates are passed.
41 Union St, Boston, MA 02108, USA
Come for the history, stay for the chowder. Bostonians have been slurping down oysters at America’s oldest continuously operating restaurant since 1826, and while you won’t find Union Oyster House on any haute dining lists, it’s well worth a stop when you’re walking the Freedom Trail or exploring the area around Faneuil Hall. Sidle up to the semicircular oyster bar right inside the front door just like Daniel Webster once did, or feast on a classic New England shore dinner in the upstairs dining room, away from the crowds. There you’ll find a plaque marking the booth where JFK liked to scarf baked beans and clam chowder—one of the restaurant’s many reminders of its long history of catering to celebrities.
40 Brattle St, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA
Nothing screams New American dining like having a “secret burger” on your menu, and chef Michael Scelfo took his private-patty concept with him after leaving Russell House Tavern to launch Alden & Harlow. Topped with a sheet of crisped Cabot cheese and bread-and-butter pickles, it’s been hailed as one of the best in Boston. Burgers aside, this goosed-up basement tavern in Harvard Square is known for its straightforward and shareable small plates and its spin on the farm-to-table idea where ingredients reach beyond the ordinary. You can order a “ubiquitous kale salad,” surely, but why not try the salad of the moment, perhaps a radish and nettles or a local strawberry and escarole, instead? The inventive cocktail menu always features a barrel-aged cocktail (white negroni anyone?) as well as options both stirred or shaken.
160 State St, Boston, MA 02109, USA
The Black Rose is reliable in every way: It’s a genuine Irish pub in a part of Boston where authentic can be hard to find among the tourist joints; the bar food is first-rate (you can’t go wrong with a pint of Guinness and the house-made corned beef on marble rye, hold the mustard); and there’s live music seven nights a week. Located across the street from the historic Custom House and close to Faneuil Hall, the Black Rose has thrived for 40 years by keeping it real, and you’ll find a lively crowd of locals and visitors here even on wintry weeknights to drink Irish beer poured by Irish bartenders and listen to Irish music.
63 Salem St
A hot lobster roll from Neptune Oyster is summertime heaven on a butter-soaked brioche, and bivalve lovers queue up daily to sample the two dozen varieties of oysters chilling in the front window of this diminutive North End restaurant. Fresh-off-the-boat fish and creative takes on New England seafood are the draws here—the clam chowder is made to order, the fish-and-chips uses Acadian redfish (not cod), and it’s probably the only place in town where you can get lobster tacos. Yeah, it’s pricey—hot or cold, the lobster roll will set you back around $30—but share the Neptune Plateau raw-bar plate with your friends and you’ll truly feel like the king of the sea.
4018, 505 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge, MA 02139, USA
What kind of cuisine do Ken Oringer and Jamie Bissonnette proffer at Little Donkey? All of them. The James Beard Award–winning chefs have described their Central Square eatery as an exercise in indulgence—a place where they can slip the bonds of convention and make whatever they want. The good news is that anything these two plate is delicious. Local color can be found in the Parker House rolls, and Little Donkey honors the Jewish fondness for Asian flavors with a schmaltzy matzo-ball ramen bowl. It’s the type of food chefs cook for themselves at home, only now you get to join in the fun.
9 Park St, Boston, MA 02108, USA
After more than 15 years atop Boston’s fine-dining scene, Barbara Lynch’s No. 9 Park may be familiar, but never ordinary. Facing the Boston Common, this restaurant is split between a dress-to-impress bar where Beacon Hill pols gather for after-work cocktails and a dining room favored for special-occasion gatherings, from proposals and wedding anniversaries to Harvard-graduation celebrations. Expect an expertly designed Cat Silirie wine list and elegant French-Italian cuisine (the foie-gras-and-prune-puree-filled gnocchi is guaranteed to please, and go with the steak frites if you’re dining at the bar), with an atmosphere to match.
281 Dartmouth St, Boston, MA 02116, USA
Fish from tins, fish whose fins were in the sea just this morning—they’re all stars at Saltie Girl, a compact seafood bar and restaurant in the Back Bay from Kathy Sidell of MET restaurant fame. Whether you love your seafood raw, smoked, fried, or—yes—out of a can, settle into one of the 11 stools in front of the active kitchen to watch as your dinner is prepared or, well, opened. Of course, you’re not paying top dollar for Chicken of the Sea here: The tinned seafood comes from small artisan producers, sustainably sourced, packed fresh, and shipped from around the world. Caviar, squid, anchovies, cod liver, and cockles are among the savories served cold with dipping sauces and crusty bread.
348 Congress St, Boston, MA 02210, USA
Sportello has a dining room resembling a high-gloss Newport Creamery and a menu of fresh-made pasta dishes: It’s a diner-trattoria love child on Fort Point Channel in South Boston’s Seaport District. Two U-shaped counters lined with stools encourage convivial dining on bowls of chef Barbara Lynch’s signature tagliatelle Bolognese and potato gnocchi dishes (the lobster-and-peas version gets raves), paired with Italian wines sourced from small producers. Leave room for Sportello’s just-filled cannoli for dessert.
1145 Washington St, Boston, MA 02118, USA
The names above this South End diner’s door are those of Boston culinary power couple Joanne Chang and restaurateur Christopher Myers, but it’s executive chef Karen Akunowicz who harmonizes Myers+Chang’s mash-up of Chinese, Taiwanese, Thai, and Vietnamese cuisines. The menu’s reference to “dim sum–y things” hints at the casual atmosphere as well as the fun spin on street food—shareable bites include spicy tuna poke and dan-dan noodles (cold Taiwanese style or spicy hot Szechuan), Thai pork lettuce wraps, and lemon-shrimp dumplings. Another nod to street food and the restaurant’s youthful clientele are the pocket-friendly prices: Small plates come in mostly under $20.
249 Pearl St, Somerville, MA 02145, USA
Sarma is the third outpost in restaurateur Ana Sortun’s Boston empire after the acclaimed Oleana and Sofra. Meyhanes—literally, “houses of wine”—have been social gathering places in Istanbul since Byzantium, and Sarma channels the communal spirit of these traditional Turkish bar/restaurants while serving up craft cocktails, local beer, and of course wine, not to mention typical meyhane snacks like parsnip fritters and lamb kofte (albeit the latter in slider form). Mezes, the eastern Mediterranean’s version of tapas, are also dished up alongside sarma wraps and shish kebab: Chef/owner Cassie Piuma gets creative with the latter, skewering and grilling scallops, quail, and barbecued duck.
7 Moulton St, Charlestown, MA 02129, USA
Michael Cooney and chef John Paine converted a Charlestown dry-cleaning operation into this casually hip pizza-and-brew restaurant in 2015, and heads are still spinning over the creatively curated list of 25-plus draft beers, wood-grilled pizzas, sandwiches, and charcuterie (yes, cheese plates have officially arrived in C-town). Brick walls and communal tables provide a beer-garden feel. Here in the Charlestown food desert, long waits would have been inevitable even if Brewer’s Fork were serving its pies and oven-roasted meatballs to locals only, but non-townies have also been flowing over the Tobin Bridge in droves for a dram.
853 Main St
There’s a reason chef Tony Maws has developed a cult following at Craigie on Main. For years, the cozy restaurant has been turning out beautiful food in a space that feels like it might be your friend’s dining room. Its commitment to regional, organic sourcing has been called a tad obsessive, but once you’ve eaten there, you’ll appreciate the attention to detail. The menu is created only after the best of the day’s ingredients have arrived; the wine, beer, and cocktail list also features the same local flavor. If you want the full experience, the chef’s seasonal tasting menu is a must. The corned-beef hash on the brunch menu is one of the reasons the restaurant regularly ends up on “Best of Boston” lists. (House-made doughnuts in a pool of golden caramel sauce don’t hurt either!)
3 N Square, Boston, MA 02113, USA
It’s hard to go wrong with Italian food in Boston’s North End, but one surefire way to go right is to turn left from the door of the Paul Revere House and slip inside the historic town house that’s home to Mamma Maria, an unmissable fine-dining restaurant facing North Square. Settle into the serenely elegant dining room overlooking the square to feast on classics like terrine of suckling pig, veal osso buco, Tuscan-style rabbit pappardelle, and a wide selection of seafood dishes from local waters. The uninitiated may mutter a “mamma mia” at the prices, but for Northern Italian in the North End, Mamma Maria rules the house.
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