Wondering where you should be eating in Boston right now? You’re in the right place. The Infatuation Hit List is your guide to the city’s best new restaurants.
And when we say “best new restaurants,” we mean it. Because we’ve tried every single one of these places - and we’ve also left off countless spots that simply aren’t as worthy of your time and money.
The Hit List is our record of every restaurant that’s opened in the past year that we’d highly recommend you try. This guide is sorted chronologically, so at the top you’ll find our latest entries to this list (the newest spots), and as you keep scrolling you’ll find the places that are on the older side - but are great enough that we still haven’t stopped talking about them.
New to the Hit List (as of 5/23/19): The Groove, No Relation, Alcove, Kala Thai Cookery.
Our Hit List is presented in partnership with MINI - so you can spend less of your time in mediocre new restaurants, and more time in the ones that matter.
We weren’t around back then, but we imagine that, with vinyl on the turntable, lava lamps in the corners, and an abundance of weed, the ’70s were the golden age of hanging out in basements. The Groove, a new cocktail lounge inside of Hojoko, isn’t in a basement (in fact, it’s got wide windows that open up directly onto Boylston), but a ’70s basement is exactly what it feels like in the best way possible. There are cream-colored lamps, overlapping rugs, bead curtains, and yes, a turntable - though sometimes there’s live music. If you’re hungry, there are small bites and snacks to go with the cocktails, like nachos topped with torched hamachi, and you also have the option of ordering off the main Hojoko menu.
We’re still not sick of small, secret restaurants hidden inside other restaurants. If you descend down several flights of stairs in one of hte new ink block buildings in the South End, you’ll eventually get to Shore Leave, a fun tiki bar that opened last fall. And if you keep going past the bathrooms, you’ll then find an unmarked door that leads to No Relation, a 9-seat sushi counter that serves the best new omakase in town. You will need to book here pretty far in advance, and you will need to pay up (it’ll cost you about $100-120 per person, before drinks) but you’ll get about 12 courses of excellent fish, along with one or two interesting non-sushi dishes, like New England miso clam soup.
Normally we don’t like it when neon signs tell us what to do, as the “Stay Foxy” sign above the bar does at Fox & The Knife. But we don’t mind if it comes with food worth driving for (and since the alternative would’ve been “Stay Knifey,” we’ll take it). Southie should be excited for this Italian place with a small, but heavy-hitting menu. You’ll be in good hands with the harissa braised lamb, or tortellini with parsnips and sweet gorgonzola. It also helps that the small, dark dining room with fox murals on the walls is packed and fun just about every night, and the bar is big enough to grab a last-minute Negroni and a bite to eat with a friend.
There’s no silverware at Longfellow, a sleek cocktail bar above Alden & Harlow in Harvard Square. But that’s not because there’s no food, it’s because everything is designed to be eaten with your hands. That’s a tough break for germaphobes, but as long as you’ve got some Purell handy, you’re going to enjoy a lot of things that the term “bar food” doesn’t really do justice for. The deviled eggs are topped with ikura, potato chips, and chives. The pigs in a blanket get black truffle and honey. And the waffle fries come with salsa verde. The cocktails are pretty good, too. There’s even a selection of low-alcohol drinks, so if your goal is to make your way through the entire menu, you at least have a small chance of being able to do it before passing out.
If you want to eat at a great restaurant before everyone else knows its name - or, frankly, before it’s even a real restaurant - head to Tanam, a 10-seat table in Union Square’s Bow Market. On most nights, it’s a ticketed dining experience, so for $90 you’ll feel like you have a personal chef as you make your way through five Filipino-inspired courses, and get the background on each one. For something a little cheaper, Wednesdays are reserved for a giant $70 meal that’s tossed onto a banana leaf-covered table, and Thursday is bar night, where the table is raised and the menu is taken over by snacks and small plates. Either way, you’ll get things like braised oxtail, sweet coconut rice cakes, and lychee and crab brussels sprouts, and you’ll love it. Eventually, Tanam will grow out of the small walk-in closet of a room that it currently occupies, so come here now and say you knew about it way back when.
The food court in the Corner Mall in Downtown Crossing is one of the most depressing places in Boston and should be banished back to 1972 where it came from. But Xi’an makes it bearable. Don’t let the size of this little counter operation fool you - they’re cranking out food that runs laps around the neighboring fast food chains. The menu is noodle-heavy, but don’t miss the chopped meat sandwiches (that would be the rougamo). Get the dan dan noodles if you’re looking for serious spice, and the wontons if you’re just looking for some midday joy.
Since the weather here sucks for the better part of a year, tiki bars are something of a necessity. And there are few better ways to get through a grey, grimy Boston evening than by camping out at Shore Leave, which looks like a filming location for South Pacific. With an extensive menu of fruity cocktails, it’s more a bar than a restaurant, but the menu of small plates and shareable dishes is enough to get you through dinner. Stay for a while and order the scallion pancake with king crab dip and some Filipino BBQ ribs for the table.
If you work in the Seaport, you might already know Fuku as the fried chicken sandwich place that has lunch lines out the door. And if you’re wondering whether getting that sandwich is worth showing up late for your one o’clock meeting, we can tell you that the answer is yes - and not just because you were planning to respond to every question in that meeting with a vague non-answer about tax implications. You could get a whole plate of chicken fingers, bites, or wings, but we like the Koreano sandwich because you get a blend of both heat and sweet. You’re going to want to load up on the knockout sauce.
If you made it to their seasonal beer garden on the Greenway, then you already know that Trillium makes some of the best beer in the world (particularly the New England IPAs). Honestly, they could serve nothing but half-eaten Hot Pockets at their new tap room in Fort Point, and we’d still put it on this list on the strength of the brews alone. But then you’ll try the pulled pork and realize that this is one of the best new restaurants in the city. If you’re with four or more people, make sure to order two servings of the bone marrow so that you don’t end a friendship fighting over it.
Most of the places surrounding the Garden look like wings of the hockey hall of fame and make you strain your eyes looking for something on the menu that isn’t fried. Luckily, though, Alcove in the renovated warehouse building next to the new Converse headquarters, isn’t just a good relative to the neighborhood, it’s good period. The American menu will look similar to a lot of other new places that share the same industrial chic aesthetic, but everything’s well done and a lot of the dishes have unusual twists, like the avocado that’s charred and topped with aioli, and the rigatoni that somehow works with cranberries and dark chocolate. And with a good cocktail list, a fun, crowded bar, and a patio that overlooks the Zakim and the Charles River locks, it’s a good spot for an early date.
Located in the Galleria Food Court in the Longwood Medical Area, this place is so low-key that you’ll be directed next door when you try to order a fountain soda. But you should gladly accept that minor inconvenience in exchange for hand-pulled noodles that are stretched and slapped against the counter right in front of you. The spice in the dan dan noodles is serious, and while the pork dumplings need a little sauce, you’re going to want to take a gallon of that sauce (in the form of as many little plastic cups as you can carry) home with you.
Little Sheep is the newest hot pot place in Chinatown. It’s still working out the kinks, but, judging by the quality of the spicy broth, it’s got a lot of promise. The meat servings are huge, so bring a lot people if you’re hoping to mix and match. Whether you like hot pot because you enjoy pretending you’re a Bond villain slowly lowering his enemies into a deadly vat of acid, or you just like broth-soaked quail eggs, Little Sheep is a place you should check out.
Nahita’s borderline ridiculous jungle decor makes this place near Park Square feel sort of like a governor’s palace during the Raj. The menu is a Latin-Asian fusion of raw fish and tacos, along with flashy cocktails a lot of people will be taking pictures of. We recommend the spicy bluefin tiradito if you’re not sure where to start, and you should eventually make your way to the octopus. Come here when you’re in the mood to spend the night staring up at the ceiling and pointing at something.
For the most part, Dragon Pizza in Davis Square looks like any old slice joint with grease-stained tables and paper plates. But the extensive collection of cassette tapes on the wall should clue you into the fact that this place is a little different. The pizzas are definitely a step above what you’ll find in most slice spots, like the plain cheese that’s perfectly blistered, and a maple BBQ slice that’s better than it has any right to be. Even the salads here are solid.
Kala Thai, an airy, casual spot so close to the Haymarket that, unless you believe busted tomatoes prevent foot blisters, you’re not going to want to wear sandals walking in there, has something on the menu called a corn cake. Those are two pretty basic words, and while you may think you have a pretty good idea of what the corn cake is, you’re probably wrong. Instead of a dense hunk of yellow bread or something that would normally be wrapped in wax paper, picture Dippin’ Dots but with fried kernels of corn instead of weirdly textured ice cream. It’s outstanding, you’ll wish you could get buckets of it when you go to the movies, and it’s just the beginning of an excellent Thai menu at what should be one of your new Downtown go-to’s for lunch or a quick dinner. The standard noodle dishes are all well done, but the small plates and curries are outstanding and the reason that, if you live nearby, you can now brag that your neighborhood Thai spot is better than your friend’s.
The current trend in corporate America is chair-less meetings, the theory being that the meetings will be shorter if everyone’s forced to stand up. Fool’s Errand in the Fenway doesn’t have any chairs either, but you’re probably going to want to stay as long as possible in this small space that looks like the bedroom of a European princess. Order a drink, the Italian croquettes, and maybe some smoked beef tongue, and tell yourself that you’re burning more calories by standing up.
Technically, Chickadee is in the Seaport, but it’s in a distant corner of the neighborhood you probably haven’t been to unless you’re a longshoreman. It’s worth trekking past the drydocks and eighteen-wheelers to get to this very good, sleek Mediterranean-ish restaurant carved into the Innovation and Design Building. During the day, you’ll find pita sandwiches stuffed with hake, cauliflower, chicken, or beef, but if you go there for dinner, prioritize the pasta - specifically the squid ink fusilli.
This Japanese-inspired spot in the South End has been packed on the weekends since it opened. The crowds, shareable plates, and small but interesting cocktail menu make for a fun night - even if the dining room is weirdly bright. The snacks and vegetable small plates are the best part of the menu (the miso glazed eggplant will remind you how good eggplant can be) and, while some of the larger dishes are misses, we really liked the hamachi with rhubarb.
Nathalie isn’t just a wine bar - it’s a place that really wants you to like wine. This place’s menu descriptions actually help you imagine what each wine will taste like (fiery, thick skinned, cheeky and fresh, etc.), and we appreciate their policy of letting you try any bottle in the place, as long as you commit to drinking at least half of it. The food menu is on the small side, but that lets you focus on the drinks, which are the real reason you came here.
Dakzen is a quick and casual Bangkok street noodles place in Davis Square. The pork in the boat noodle is as tender as some fall-off-the-bone stuff you’ve had at great BBQ spots, and the khao soi will almost certainly beat whatever salad you usually have for lunch during the week.