The Best Restaurants In Boston guide image

BOSGuide

The Best Restaurants In Boston

Our guide to the 24 quintessential places that make eating in Boston what it is.

Boston is an ever-evolving city, with a constant influx of students, a large international population, and a series of unique, charming neighborhoods, and plenty of excellent restaurants. Dining out in Boston, in short, should be about trying every bite of seafood that comes out of the nearby waters, sampling a spread of international flavors, and tucking into some of the coziest neighborhood spots.

This is our list of the best restaurants in Boston that are equally great for first-time visitors and those of us who remember cheering the C’s and B’s at the old Boston Garden. Does it include every single great dish in town? Nah. Is it perfect? Maybe. Will it give you a good introduction to the best that The Hub has to offer, and loads of context for what dining in Boston is all about? Absolutely.


THE SPOTS


photo credit: Elizabeth Cecil

Faccia a Faccia review image

Faccia a Faccia

$$$$

278 Newbury St, Boston
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This new Italian-ish brownstone might be buzzy, but Faccia a Faccia is a lot more than just hype. The crowd-pleasing menu is packed with Italian flavors and has something for literally everyone, such as mozzarella sticks kissed with caviar and grilled Scituate lobster. Head downstairs to the restaurant’s busy wine bar for a well-curated list that leans organic.


photo credit: Matt Kisiday

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The Banks Fish House

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This upscale two-story seafood restaurant has that perfect steakhouse-style service your dad probably loves, two bars (head to the one upstairs for killer views of the Hancock tower reflecting Trinity Church), and fresh-as-hell fish. Start with the crudo, but don’t miss the creative snacks like the Chowda Flatbread before going to town on a fisherman’s platter or dover sole. Sister restaurant to Grill 23 steakhouse, this is a place locals like to hit for a celebration, and delivers all the fancy, party vibes you need for a solid night (or afternoon) out.


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Since opening in the Seaport in 2018, Chickadee’s seasonal, Mediterranean-leaning menu and expansive industrial-chic space have been a hit with locals and people visiting the area. This big, noisy spot (shoutout to whoever creates the playlists) sits in a design center with major cool kid vibes and menu mainstays like chickpea panisse fries, fresh baked pita and spreads (consider this a love note to the feta pimiento), and labneh-ranch dressed fried chicken that keeps us coming back. 


South Boston, primarily known for excellent watering holes, has recently had a restaurant glow-up, and Lenox Sophia is a welcome addition to the growing lineup. This cool, casual spot turns out a French- and Asian-inspired tasting menu four nights a week for under $100, featuring things like tagliatelle with black truffles and buttermilk fried qual with nori wasabi seasoning. The meal feels super high-end (but the price is relatively modest) and you can choose between omnivore and vegetarian. This spot is tiny and almost always packed, so make a reservation and stop by Social Wines on the corner for a bottle before heading over, as this is one of the few BYOB restaurants in Boston.


This Southern Italian wine bar offers everything we crave all the time, and maybe you do too. Think wood-fired seafood, appetizers like farro arancini, and small plates of pasta, like the transcendent jet-black casarecce al nero that’s bright, spicy, and topped with lobster. Add in a long, beautifully lit bar and you’ve got a great evening ahead of you.


You’ll find the largest Greek wine list in the U.S. at this sleek Black Bay restaurant-slash-wine bar. Let the talented bartenders guide you on your wine journey while you snack on top-notch Greek mezze and larger plates of wood-fired meats and seafood. There’s also a speakeasy cocktail bar out back if you want to make a night of it.


At this cozy, classic New England restaurant, you’ll find soulful, fresh farm food—they bring much of the produce in from their farm in Groton and other local purveyors—in a classic bistro setting in Cambridge. This is the kind of restaurant you can take anyone to: simple pasta is elevated with locally sourced ingredients, the New England cioppino is like shoving the ocean in your mouth (in a good way), and the homemade Parker House rolls are perfect for sopping everything up. Flattering, cozy lighting and great cocktails round out the experience.


Celeste is maybe the most fun restaurant in Somerville. Head here with a date or even a double-date (more people, more sharing) for ceviche that’s been marinated in the Peruvian style leche de tigre. You’ll see flames dancing from the fast-moving pans in the kitchen, and you should order the purple pisco drink that will warm your soul.


This is the spot you want to stop at if you’re walking around town, have a couple of bucks in your pocket, and want some solid pizza and incredible arancini. The Sicilian slices are just the right amount of thick with perfectly charred cheese, and the arancini’s crunch-to-gooey ratio is a masterclass in texture contrast. It’s cash only, and you should be ready to eat off paper plates. Also, you’ll really want to have your order ready when you get to the counter (we’re not saying you’ll get a dirty look, but you’ll probably get a dirty look).


North End locals know the only way to avoid tourist mobs and still have an absolute feast is to hit this 20-seat spot’s original location. Come on a weeknight (they don't take reservations) and watch as a chef in a tiny, tiny kitchen cooks up the freshest seafood pasta dishes you’ve had in your life. Get the aglio e olio with squid ink pasta and ground calamari and anchovy, and don’t plan on doing anything but napping afterwards.


Add this casual New England izakaya to your Cambridge to-do list. Snuggle up to the fireplace while enjoying seafood so fresh you’ll taste the ocean in every bite—we’re talking about flavorful, warm dishes like lobster roe pasta and a simple plate of seared scallops with soy sauce and butter. They also offer a solid sake menu with the option of getting a flight, and will help newbies navigate the different styles.


If you’ve only tried Thai dishes like massaman curry and pad thai, there’s a lot you’re missing out on. That’s just one reason you should hit up Mahaniyom, a vibe-heavy restaurant with graffiti in the restroom that alone is worth a visit. The cocktails are tremendous, especially the Kin Na Ree that brings together Thai and Jamaican rums. You can’t go wrong with any of the 20 or so small dishes on the menu, with many ingredients sourced locally and curries made from scratch. Go with a small group, start with the kang pu and chicken ka praw, and go from there.


This raw bar with seafood dishes like bouillabaisse and swordfish from Gloucester is the perfect place to stop after a day shopping and sightseeing around Newbury Street. Descend the steps of the historic Back Bay townhouse to the ground floor and you’ll find a cozy, casual, bistro-style restaurant that’s open for lunch and dinner. Go ahead and get a little day drunk on cocktails made with small-batch artisanal spirits.


For a quick, delicious sandwich, treat, or coffee, head to this excellent mini-chain (with eight locations in total) that serves great breakfast and lunch options, including a warming miso tofu noodle bowl, avocado toast with cotija cheese, and the absolute best sticky buns in Boston (and maybe on the East Coast). With kid-friendly vibes, this is a great place to eat in or grab a coffee and a bright, flavorful lunch to take to the Esplanade for an impromptu hang.


This spot has gorgeous views of the harbor, is fancy but not intimidatingly so, and is so committed to food sourcing that they bought a farm that supplies most of the meat, produce, and dairy. Go for brunch to try the lobster popover that’s reached cult status around town (and beyond—we’ve seen Mindy Kaling getting down with one) or for perfectly-balanced cocktails and risotto made from sunflower seeds for the gluten-free crew.


Ask enough people, and you’ll start to realize this colorful Winter Hill Mediterranean spot is everyone’s favorite restaurant in Boston. And it only takes one visit to realize that the people might be onto something. This is one of the longest menus in Boston, but ironically, you’ll be thrilled with just a few of the Middle Eastern small plates that punch you in the face with flavor. Even though this place is in an empty part of Somerville behind the high school, it’s extremely hard to get a table. If you don’t have a reservation, get there before 7pm and grab seats at the bar, where you can watch the prep station and ask the bartenders to make you whatever they feel like making.


Toro hits that perfect sweet spot between bar and restaurant, with high-top tables and a bustling bar that begs you to cozy up with friends so you can try as many dishes as possible at this South End tapas spot. It’s never been an easy place to get into, but plates like the taco with uni and caviar make it worth the wait. It’s easier during the warmer months, and remember: if you’re not leaving work early on every 70-degree day to claim one of Toro’s sidewalk tables, you’re doing summer wrong.


This buzzy izakaya is one of Boston’s flashiest restaurants, and we mean that in the best possible way. You can come here just for the sushi and sashimi and have a great meal, but you’re better off focusing on the small plates and ordering as many as you can. Go wild and get the dishes that would be gimmicky in less talented hands, such as the Maine Uni Spoon: a $22 spoonful of quail egg, yuzu, and caviar. Everything is incredible, and yes, that spoon is worth it.


To be clear, we’re not talking about any of the food court offshoots you can find throughout Greater Boston. We’re talking only about the original Regina on Thatcher Street in the North End, which has been around since before the Great Depression. Age alone doesn’t guarantee greatness, but the usual line out the door (and around the block) is a good start. You can’t get slices here, but that’s fine because you won’t mind lingering with a whole pie and a pitcher of beer in a place that’s as comfortably worn in as your Saturday morning hoodie. This is the best place for a full pizza in the city, and every time you come here, you’ll wonder why you ever get pizza anywhere else.


Pagu is Japanese-Spanish fusion, and the mix of influences makes for really, really good food. This is a small plates place that’s ideal for tackling with a group before heading out in Central Square. That’s especially true if you opt for one of the greatest group dining experiences in the city: the suckling pig roast, which you can get for parties of two, four, or six. We’re not the first ones to realize this place is great, so you should plan on booking in advance.


If you’ve ever wanted to blow your whole paycheck in one night on a meal, have access to a corporate credit card and a client to impress, a big event to celebrate, or someone else is buying, you’re not going to do much better than this Leather District sushi restaurant. Expect lots of over-the-top touches of truffles, caviar, and gold leaf to go with perfect cuts of fish. The $250, 20-course omakase at O Ya will absolutely be one of the most memorable meals of your life.


While Neptune Oyster is cramped, crowded, and almost always filled with tourists, if we’re ever in the area and there’s a break in the line, we’ll absolutely head in and take a seat at the bar, even if we just ate. It’s that good, and it’s the type of oyster bar that makes you wonder why you don’t do this more often. Seriously, even if you just downed a plate of clams over linguine around the corner, snag that bar seat and buckle up for the johnnycake, crudo, and lobster roll.


Sometimes you want a casual bite for lunch or breakfast, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be absolutely decadent and delicious. From the same people as the beloved Cambridge spots Sarma and Oleana, Sofra is a counter-service Mediterranean cafe/bakery in West Cambridge that makes perfect breakfast and lunch mezzes. If you’re in a breakfast mood, get the shakshuka or Turkish breakfast, and pick up some baklava for dessert, too, because lunch dessert is self-care.


Locals who live in Jamaica Plain or nearby have Ten Tables in their back pocket for every birthday, anniversary, or cozy date night, and it should be your go-to for a perfect night out in one of Boston’s cooler neighborhoods. The regular menu is always worth it for perfectly-cooked chicken and an excellent pasta dish or two, but you should also try to come for a themed prix-fixe night, which they do frequently. Our favorite is the wine dinners, which give you a themed menu, paired wines, and tasting notes longer than a Russian novel.


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