We’ve spent the last year, eating, taking notes, eating again, dreaming about eating, writing about eating, eating just a little bit more, and wondering if the state passed a law mandating that every new restaurant have at least one interior neon sign. That’s because it’s our job, but also because we’ve been working to bring you our list of Boston’s Best New Restaurants Of 2019.
It’s a varied group featuring everything from a French place where it wouldn’t feel weird to propose marriage, to a Vietnamese spot decorated with stock photos of New York and city council campaign signs. But all of them have one thing in common: they’re phenomenal and you need to try them.
There are a lot of things that make Tanam unique. It’s the city’s only Filipino place. It’s the only restaurant that has just one 10-seat table, and it’s your only option if you’re in the mood to eat off of banana leaves with your bare hands. But all you really need to know is that your meal at Tanam will be incredible. And whether you come for the Wednesday night banana leaf kamayan, or the weekend tasting menu filled with tangy, sometimes spicy, always interesting dishes like the crab cakes served in fish sauce and coconut milk dressing, you’re going to have a great time.
Yes, we know that Bar Lyon opened in September 2018. And yes, we understand the concept of linear time. But since we didn’t exist when this French bistro in the South End opened its doors, we figured it was only right to include our favorite new restaurant of late 2018 here. This place is so good that the best burger in Boston, almost gets lost among all of the other rich, delicious food. If you’ve been looking for a little French bistro in your life, a place to keep coming back to until the staff knows your name and starts pouring your go-to white as soon as you walk in, make it Bar Lyon.
Coming to Ilona might make you sad about all the mismatched Ikea furniture in your apartment. But this place doesn’t just look good - start eating and you’ll discover that even more effort was put into the menu than the color scheme and selfie-bait murals. It’s an Eastern Mediterranean restaurant in the South End that serves a lot of saucy, meaty small plates. And while the menu has a few things that seem ubiquitous, everything is perfectly cooked, and somehow unique, like the roasted chicken livers in spicy hummus or halloumi with grapes, sesame, and honey. Given that it’s from the same people behind Kava Neo-Taverna, we had a good feeling when it opened up, but it’s even better than we expected.
Gustazo always seems to be filled with a nearly complete cross-section of Cambridge, from families and professors, to people who look like they have an entire kitchen drawer filled with NPR tote bags. They’re all here because there’s a lot to love. Start with one of the outstanding cocktails made with things like cigar-infused rum. Have some small plates that either make something familiar feel new (the garbanzo beans with brown butter and smoked almond sofrito) or are truly hard to find (the jibarito sandwich that swaps out bread for flattened fried plantains and is almost unheard of outside of Chicago). And finish by splitting a large plate of perfectly roasted pork.
The food usually isn’t the first thing people talk about when it comes to Mariel downtown. But it should be. Beyond the flaming cocktails, the Havana-meets-the-Lincoln-Memorial decor, and the steady selfie procession, you’ll find yuca cheese puffs that are a perfect way to start any meal, small plates that are always filled with more flavor than you expect, and a cod fish sandwich that’s one of the best cod dishes in a city with a lot of cod dishes. This is our new favorite birthday place, for literally anyone’s birthday.
There aren’t many sushi omakase spots in Boston. The few options that do exist tend to either be so pricey that you might consider selling a few things on the dark web to afford trying one, or an afterthought at the bottom of the menu that the servers barely even know about. Umami is filling in those gaps. Not only does this North Cambridge place focus exclusively on the omakase sushi experience, but it’s also affordable, with three different meal options starting at $68. When you’re in the mood to upgrade from a rainbow roll to a bacon-infused otoro topped with caviar, head here.
A part of us was sad after we had our first bite of the buttery, tangy thit heo xao lan (a sauteed pork dish) at Ban Toi, a casual Vietnamese restaurant in Dorchester decorated with stock photos of New York and city council campaign signs. It was so good that we figured that the rest of the meal would be a relative disappointment. But then we had our first spoonful of a chicken pho that made us question whether we’ve ever had chicken pho before, and we realized that Ban Toi is just a place that makes a handful legitimately perfect dishes. Nothing sad about that.
No Relation isn’t Boston’s best sushi restaurant, but it’s easily the most fun. A nine-seat sushi counter hidden behind the bathrooms of a tiki bar in the South End, this place only serves a 15-course omakase meal. The whole experience makes you feel like a yakuza-affiliated VIP eating in a secret restaurant no one else knows about. And yes, that does make great pieces of fish served with everything from cherry blossom and brown butter, to uni rice and jalapeno taste even better.