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Best Restaurants in Boston, MA

by Rita Connelly

Boston is by all means a ‘restaurant town’. Thanks to its rich history, the continuous influx of immigrants from around the world and the Atlantic Ocean just outside its front door, this compact city features a rich array of places to eat. From some of the countries best upscale dining rooms to the many funky little eateries that dot the city you’re bound to find some place to sup no matter your mood or your budget.

One of the restaurants featured below, the Union Oyster House, is the longest continually operating restaurant in America; others are relatively new to the city’s restaurant scene. Several chefs in town have more than one venue, which showcases the talent that the city has as far as dining goes.

Boston is also a walking town that is divided into neighborhoods, each with its own charm and character. The North End is where Italian immigrants took root and as such there are many small family run Italian restaurants, bakeries and grocery stores. The South End is fast becoming a chic enclave of bistros, boites and cafes. The Financial District is where you’ll find the power brokers with their business lunches. Beacon Hill, the Commons, the Theater District and more all have their unique charms and fantastic restaurants. And across the River Charles lies the city of Cambridge, home to the famous Harvard University, with its own collection of fine restaurants.

So put on a good pair of walking shoes and work up an appetite. Find a wide variety of luxury Boston hotels after your adventure. Boston is ready for you.

The Butcher Shop
552 Tremont Street
617 423-4800
The Butcher Shop was listed on Food & Wine magazine’s “Go List” in 2007 and with good reason. With the meticulous attention to detail that has made Barbara Lynch one of the country’s most renowned chefs, the food offerings at The Butcher Shop is winning a slew of awards and a loyal following. Located in the trendy South End, the place is a boucherie (butcher shop) with amazing forced meats, hams, pates, and such displayed in a glass case during the day. As the day progresses the wine bar takes over and the crowds begin to gather for tastings around the immense butcher block table. This is a seasonally driven kind of place, even the wine menu, which is wisely put together by Cat Silirie, a local wine wizard and the wine director at all of Lynch’s  restaurants. Large windows for people watching and a breezy atmosphere complete the picture. A great place to pick up a get-and-go meal. Dinner. Brunch on weekends. Moderate to expensive.

Central Kitchen
567 Massachusetts Avenue
617 491-5599
If location plays any part in the success of a restaurant, many folks probably doubted that Central Kitchen would make it. Located in the heart of Central Square, a once somewhat seedy part of Cambridge, the restaurant today is credited with an upswing in the area. The dining room is swanky, featuring a smart blue-tiled bar, frosted wine bottle lighting and copper table tops. Chef Gary Strack’s menu is Southern Mediterranean inspired with such fine offerings as roasted spring lamb or mussels with French fries drizzled with aioli. The chicken fricassee comes highly recommended, as does the well-seasoned steak. Reasonably priced wines not found elsewhere are also a bragging point. Music is a big part of the hip scene; sometimes there will be a DJ, other times a live flamingo guitarist entertains. Central Kitchen is rumored to be the perfect date spot, as well as the place to grab some late night eats. The Enormous Room upstairs is an ultra cool lounge for after dinner fun. Dinner. Moderate to expensive.


370 Commonwealth Avenue
370A Commonwealth Avenue
617 536-7200
Two restaurants under essentially one roof - The Eliot Hotel - could seem a little over-the-top, but in the hands of Chef Ken Oringer and his talented staff dining at either one of these distinguished rooms is anything but. Clio, the chic upstairs restaurant, features French Asian fusion. Uni, the sleek basement room, is all about sashimi. They share a modern barroom, upscale prices and an air of anticipation – diners know they’re in for an exciting evening. With high ceilings, leopard-skin carpeting, huge sprays of flowers and a sexy hum, Clio will impress. Dishes are a clever blend of the usual ingredients and some truly exotic items. Grains of Paradise, anyone?  The lacquered foie gras is a revelation. Prices may be off-putting for some, but for that special occasion, Clio should be at the top of your list. Uni is a little more intimate. With only a dozen tables and a few more seats around the sushi station, diners truly feel the food is being created just for them. Add a shot of sake or a Japanese beer and you’re in sushi heaven. Breakfast is served at Clio, as is dinner. Uni serves dinner. Both restaurants are expensive.  

Craigie Street Bistrot
5 Craigie Street
617 497-5511
Headlines for this Cambridge favorite could read “Hometown Boy makes Good; Returns to his Roots to Wow the Locals”. Indeed, Chef Tony Maws is wowing them with his menu that changes daily. This is due to his dedication to serve only the best in local products. Food & Wine magazine named him one of their “Best New Chefs” in 2005 and Wine Enthusiast Magazine added “The Best Fine Dining” restaurant moniker in 2006. Since the market determines the menu here, don’t go expecting to find that favorite dish you enjoyed the last time. But you won’t be disappointed. The meats used are all natural and hormone free. The produce most likely was picked just that morning at a local farm and the seafood pulled from the nearby waters. And with Maws and staff in the kitchen, your meal will be memorable. Wines reflect the same philosophy and most come from small, sustainable wineries. Served in an intimate “basement” room finished with touches of postcards from Paris and eclectic collectibles, this restaurant could easily be found on the streets of Montemarte. Dinner. Expensive.
Dali Restaurant and Tapas Bar
415 Washington Street
617 661-3254
This Somerville gem was one of the first true tapas restaurants in the Boston area. Since it opened in 1989, it has won numerous awards from the likes of Boston Magazine and Boston television’s “PhantomGourmet”. If you’re looking for a little romance or somewhere you and your friends can gather for good food and good fun, Dali is the place to start. A series of small dining rooms are decorated with an assortment of trinkets from Spain, bright flowers, beaded curtains, jewelry and colorful tiles all wrapped in golden lighting. The servers will guide you through the menu, consisting of over 45 tapas and several entrees. Although some of the menu changes monthly, you’ll always find customer favorites such as the garlic shrimp or baked goat cheese. Wines from all over Spain include Sherries, ports and, of course, Sangria. Dinner. Moderate to expensive.
Durgin Park
340 Faneuil Hall Market Place
617 227-2038
Okay, so this local legend will never win kudos from the gourmet crowd and its weathered wooden décor isn’t so pretty, but the folks there probably don’t really mind. Their goal is simple. They want diners to have a good time and enjoy basic New England style food. And they succeed. Whether you decide to eat upstairs at a communal table or prefer some privacy downstairs, you’re bound to find something to satisfy. The hearty clam chowder is a great start. Follow that with the quintessential baked scrod and a huge slice of the famous cornbread. If you’re really hungry after a long day of shopping at Faneuil Hall, order the large prime rib or a monster lobster, both Durgin Park icons. And don’t be offended by the surly waitress, she’s all part of the vibe that made Durgin Park famous. Lunch and Dinner. Moderate to Expensive.
Eastern Standard
Hotel Commonwealth
528 Commonwealth Avenue
617 532-9100
When you think about a place that wins the “Best Pre/Post Fenway Dining” – from The Improper Bostonian you might imagine a rowdy sports bar with big screen TV’s, bright lights and food only a jock could love. But Eastern Standard, the 2007 winner of the above award, is anything but your typical sports bar. The vibe is chic and smart; the room polished and sophisticated with high ceilings, deep red leather banquettes and table tops clothed in white linens. Instead of ordering a cold mug of beer at the long, sleek bar, you can enjoy one of the proprietary cocktails or classic martinis built by any one of the knowledgeable bartenders. The menu, while offering a great burger and an excellent steak, also features comfort food with a strong sense of smarts. The cod fritters, for example, are served in a small salt cod box. The steamed mussels are enriched with Vermont cider sauce and fennel. And the choice of charcuterie would make a butcher swoon. Add the sincere and knowledgeable staff and you may never go back to your favorite sports bar again. Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner. Inexpensive.
1) One Columbus Avenue
617 423-3184

2) Harvard Square
30 Dunster Street
617 441-9797

3) Coolidge Corner
1305 Beacon Street
617 232-3233
When the first Finale opened its doors at Park Plaza there was a collective gasp from Bostonians. Imagine! a restaurant dedicated to having desserts as the draw. Sure there are those starter plates – savory salads, tiny pizzas and such – but don’t be distracted by such items, good as they may be. The desserts are works of art and scrumptious. Anything with chocolate will satisfy your sweet tooth (the signature molten chocolate cake is served with chocolate gelato atop a bed of crunchy almonds), but other items such as the pineapple upside down cake served with a sea salt sugar cookie will also fit the bill. Any and all items are made with only the best ingredients available. The servers will recommend an appropriate wine or you can opt for a cup of upscale ‘joe’. Now that there are three sites, folks from Cambridge to Coolidge Corner can enjoy divine desserts. Lunch and Dinner. Moderate.

Hamersley’s Bistro
553 Tremont Street
617 423-2700
The golden glow that emanates from the windows of this South End bistro beckons diners inside. There they are greeted with wonderful aromas wafting from Chef Gordon Hamersley’s kitchen. The staff seems to float through the graciously appointed dining room. Hamersley’s is the kind of place that could become a favorite. According to a local in the know, “This is one of those places where you DO order the chicken.” Cooked to falling-off-the-bone tender, it is rich with flavors of fresh herbs, garlic and lemon. Also recommended: the mussel and saffron tart which was named one of the “52 Things to Love About Eating Here Right Now” in Boston Magazine. No doubt, you’ll find the perfect wine, decidedly with a French twist, but that is to be expected from such a fine little bistro as Hamersley’s. Dinner. Expensive

253 Hanover Street
Located on the upper floor of a tiny building in the North End, this intimate restaurant will bring out the romantic in anyone. A window table will give you a birds-eye view of quaint Hanover Street below. Lovely touches of wood, exposed brick and candlelight add a bit of romance. Start the evening with a salumi plate, followed by the house risotto or a plate of veal saltimbocca. Any of the pastas will also please. On Sunday evenings Executive Chef Marc Orfaly of Pigalle fame and his Chef della cucina, Matt Abdoo prepare a family-style dinner of some of their best plates offered at reasonable prices. The meatball “recipe” comes from Chef Matt’s nana. Wines are available by the glass, ¼ carafe, ½ carafe, carafe or bottle. They have all been carefully selected from the finest small wineries in Italy. Dinner. Moderate to expensive.

Neptune Oyster
63 Salem Street
617 742-3474
This tiny charmer is a welcome addition to the dining scene in the North End. Rather than the ubiquitous Italian fare found at most of the neighbors, Neptune Oyster is a seafood lovers dream come true. You can almost smell the sweet salt air as you walk in the door. Then, in the window, you’ll see the mounds of achingly fresh oysters that have been gleaned from seas far and wide. The room is lovingly appointed with old-time tile floor, a long counter and several small tables, with colors of red and black and mirrors all around. In addition to the oysters, stars include the lobster roll which is prepared here with an artful flair. Oddly enough, the burger is also a winner, partly due to the crispy fried oysters on top. Service is friendly and the staff will be more than happy to help you find the perfect wine pairings from the Wine Spectator magazine’s ‘Award of Excellence’ winning wine list. Neptune Oyster is cozy, smart and not to be missed. Lunch and Dinner. Moderate to expensive.

No. 9 Park
9 Park Street
617 742-9991

Any restaurant that occupies an elegant old townhouse in Beacon Hill might give the impression of a stuffy, out-of-date sort of place. No.9 Park is instead a warm, inviting place to dine. Ever since Barbara Lynch opened the doors of her flagship restaurant, Boston diners have enjoyed gracious hospitality and some of the most remarkable food in the Northeast. Classically trained and undeniably creative, Lynch – and No 9 Park – has won the culinary honors, including “Best Chef Northeast” from the James Beard Foundation. Pastas are her forte; her gnocchi with prune and foie gras and the pasta Bolognese are award winners, but other entrees shine as well. The pumpkin risotto with rare lamb is highly recommended. The dining room is lovingly appointed from the polished wood floors to the lovely ceilings. Service matches themenu – sophisticated, smart and warm. The ever changing wine list is composed of some of the best wines from small wineries from around the world. Lunch Monday – Friday. Dinner Monday through Saturday. Closed Sundays. Expensive. 


134 Hampshire Street
617 661-0505
Chef Ana Sortun takes her inspiration from such exotic spots as Turkey, Morocco, southern Spain and Italy. She uses spices she has gathered from around the world, blends them with peppers, lamb, mussels and the like and then presents them in a warm, earthy dining space filled with stone, wood and knickknacks from North Africa. Regulars know that the patio is an ideal spot to munch on the creamy spinach falafel or a plate of the mezze, which means something to whet your appetite. For an entrée, you can choose from the luscious lamb steak with a side of moussaka or the sea scallops in tangerine butter. Because this is as much a neighborhood place, as anything else, the service is friendly and down-home and certainly most knowledgeable.  Desserts are also outstanding thanks to Maura Kilpatrick’s imagination and well-honed skills. Dinner. Expensive.


Parish Café & Bar
361 Boylston Street
617 247-4777
With an ideal location in the Back Bay and just minutes from the Public Garden, it’s not surprising to find a wait at Parish. But the crowds would come no matter where the location, thanks to an array of scrumptious sandwiches. Created by local chefs, such as Lydia Shire, Barbara Lynch and the imaginative staff at Parish, the sandwiches put old standards in a new light. The Tuna Salad, which won the Best Tuna Sandwich title from Boston Magazine, is made from fresh tuna, served open-faced and topped with bacon and Monterrey Jack cheese. The bartenders are also a creative bunch and have put together a great beer list and plenty of cool cocktails. Add the beautiful patio out front designed for some of the best people watching in the Back Bay, lunch, dinner or late night dining at Parish Café will keep you coming back for more. Inexpensive.
Petite Robert Bistro
468 Commonwealth Avenue
617 375-0699

480 Columbus Avenue
617 867-0600
The word that keeps coming up when people talk about eating at either of these two locations is “Paris”. They compare the casual yet jazzy feel, especially on the street side patios, to somewhere you’d nosh in The City of Lights. They also mention the food which is prepared French country style. They also point out the reasonable prices that would make any country folk smile. In fact, The Improper Bostonian magazinenamed Petit Robert Bistro, the ‘Best Trip to Paris for Under $100’. Yes, you’ll find the standards such as a wonderful roasted chicken with mashed potatoes and vegetables and the house pate plate. But Chef Jacky Robert is notable for his clever twists on French cuisine. Take for example, his hamburger; the monster-sized portion looks more like a hot dog. Cheese is melted on the top and the burger is then served on a baguette. Kristen Lawsen does her magic with desserts and the bar can mix it up with any cocktail you can imagine – highly recommended, the Dirty French Chef, a drink with a story of its own. If wine is more your thing, the choices will definitely please. Lunch and Dinner. Inexpensive to Moderate.

8 High Street
617 426-1234
How does that song go? “Happiness runs in a circular motion”. And were they thinking of Radius when they wrote it? James Beard Award-winning chef Michael Schlow presents his astounding dishes in a multi-leveled room that is a series of circles; taupe banquettes form in the inner circle with another series of tables circles around them. At the far end of the room lies a rounded bar. This Dewey Square Hot Spot is certainly the place “to see and be seen”. Oh, and then there’s Schlow’s food. Labeled contemporary French, you can choose from three prix-fixe menus or order off the regular menu. The pan-fried sea bass is suggested, as are the crispy sweetbreads. But don’t go there with a special dish in mind, Chef Schlow may have creatively removed the item and replaced it with something equally as exquisite. Radius is one of those places that you might see a famous face or two. If the high prices aren’t what you’re after, then stop in at the bar for drinks and some appetizers. Lunch Monday-Friday. Dinner Monday through Saturday. Closed Sundays. Expensive.
1 Bennett Street
617 661-5050
Rialto proves hotel restaurants needn’t be stodgy and out-of-date. Chef Jodie Adams takes her years of experience and creates bright, creative dishes that will delight the palate at this beautiful restaurant located in the Charles Hotel. The floor to ceiling windows give diners more than just a glimpse of what’s happening on Harvard Square. But they might miss all that action, due to the lovely décor and the simple, but outstanding food presented to them. The white onyx bar leads to the well-appointed dining room cloaked in natural colors of green and peach. Adams, who spent many years in the kitchens of other well-known Boston chefs, takes what she learned, throws in a healthy dose of Italy, France and Spain and then uses an artistic mind to create such lush dishes as the slow roasted rabbit with olives, figs and chestnuts or grilled Wellfleet oysters with garlic bread. The menu changes seasonally and the desserts match the entrees step for step. Year after year, this high end venue justifiably wins a whole spate of awards, too numerous to mention. A great spot for that special occasion. Lunch and Dinner. Expensive.
Sel de la Terre
255 State Street at Long Wharf
617 720-1300

1244 Worcester Street
at The Natick Collection
508 650-1800
As the name implies, Sel de la Terre is the salt of the earth, a place where the food is essential and pure. What it doesn’t tell you, is that the food here also is a touch sophisticated or that the dining room is a pleasant blend of both points of views from the cozy banquettes to the colorful mural of Provence. The French philosophy in using local and fresh ingredients is apparent here (it’s the kid sister of L’Espaleir, a more uptown and expensive place). The kitchen makes the most of the New England seafood and nearby farms. The rosemary pomme frites are winners. The wine list garnered “The Best Affordable Wine List” from Boston Magazine in 2005. Poised on the edge of Boston’s historic waterfront, just on the outer limits of the North End, Sel de la Terre features all day dining whether it’s a bite from the boulangerie in front or the abbreviated late night menu served Wednesdays through Saturdays. Pricing is unique, as well; all items in each category (appetizers, sandwiches, entrees) have the same price. Lunch and Dinner. Moderate to Expensive.

69 Broomfield Street
617 338-7887
Located just minutes from Downtown Crossing, Silvertone is part speakeasy, part diner, bar hip cocktail lounge with a dose of your parents’ (grandparents?) basement rec room. Posters from back in the day will stir memories for the older crowd. Prices of both food and wine will amaze. Where else can you get killer macaroni and cheese and a glass of chardonnay all while listening to hits from the past? Favorites include the Best Steak Tips which won the “Best Steak Tips” from The Improper Bostonian in 2007. The spicy Caesar salad is also one of the more popular choices. Later in the evening, Silvertone transforms into a happening youthful hangout, but no matter once you’ve experienced this subterranean spot you’ll surely return again and again. The wines on the list are all priced at $10 over cost for bottles and $5 over cost for half bottles. Closed Sundays and Holidays. Lunch every day except Saturdays. Dinner Monday through Saturday. Inexpensive to Moderate.

177 Tremont Street
617 778-6841

“The antipasto is awesome,” states one regular at the Theater District eatery. The room is a former synagogue and the owners /chefs Jaime Mammano and Robert Jean have smartly kept the tiled vaulted ceiling and other elegant touches. Anything but stuffy, the long narrow dining room is off set by the open kitchen. This is meant to be a neighborhood haunt, Italian style. In addition to the seasonal menu items, you’ll also find many traditional Northern Italian dishes: rigatoni Bolognese, veal saltimbocca and that aforementioned antipasto plate. And then there are the non-traditional takes such as lamb meatballs or the grilled rib eye steak topped with rich, Gorgonzola cheese. Please note: the portions are big! Dinner. Moderate.


1704 Washington Street
617 536-4300
Ken Oringer took a step in a total different direction when he opened Toro. Unlike the chi-chi Clio or the Asian hot spot, Uni, Toro is a tapas bar. The atmosphere is a tad more casual, action a little faster, but like its sister restaurants, Toro aims to please. And please it does. In 2007, the tapas were proclaimed “The Best” by The Improper Bostonian magazine. And other restaurant folks often stop by after work (always a good sign). The grilled corn – maiz asado con aioli – is a heavenly take on corn on the cob. It is heavily basted with a garlic mayo, Mexican farmer’s cheese, a spray of lime juice and just enough specialty pepper to give it a kick. Other ‘musts’ include the garlic shrimp and any thing the chef does with foie gras. Wines are all from Spain. Expect a wait – Toro doesn’t take reservations – and a wonderful evening of wining and dining. Although the prices are reasonable (and portions small even for tapas), the bill may be a tad high because you might not know when to say when. Dinner. Moderate to expensive.

Union Oyster House
41 Union Street
617 227-2750
This venerable spot is the nation’s longest continually operating restaurant and as such earns a place on our list. In its history it has served everyone from Daniel Webster and his storied appetite and John F. Kennedy, who always sat in the booth that now carries his name. Other luminaries have dined here, but it is everyman who will find a hearty meal. Start with the oysters, of course. Then move on to the broiled scrod which is another New England staple. Lobster comes in a variety of styles and sizes – the Jumbo Lobster Pot contains your choice of a 3, 4 or 5 pound crustacean. Meat lovers can find steaks, chicken and chops. You can eat downstairs or climb the narrow steps and eat in one of the historic wood paneled dining rooms. Lunch, dinner and late-night. Moderate to expensive. 


Volle Nolle
51 Hanover Street
617 523-0003
This latest edition to the North End has been welcomed with open arms by the folks in the neighborhood. The name may seem Italian - it actually is Latin for willy-nilly- but the focus at this quaintly decorated shop is the sandwiches! All kinds of sandwiches are creatively made with the finest ingredients by owners Torri Crowell, who worked with Todd English, and Armando Galvao, both long-time Bostonians. People are raving about the Cuban, a brioche with a pile of ham, pork, cheese and spicy mayo that is grilled into a heavenly treat. Then there’s the tuna sandwich that incorporates Italian tuna and green beans. Breakfast treats include the English muffin that’s topped with your choice of gourmet cheeses, chorizo, smoked salmon and egg whites. Breakfast and Lunch. Inexpensive.

335 Harvard Street
617 975-0075
Zaftigs is in many ways a traditional Jewish deli. But then again, it’s not. Sure you’ll find sublime gefilte fish, lighter than air blintzes and tender corned beef, but a further perusal of the menu reveals such tasty items as banana-stuffed French toast served with bourbon-vanilla butter and a Macintosh apple, Vermont cheddar cheese omelet, a fantastic Reuben sandwich and killer pickles. Breakfast is served all day, but dinner hour finds the place packed to the rafters. Portions are “huge”. The décor is stylishly modern with eye-popping art and other modern touches. The staff is part of the reason Zaftigs has won kudos such as “Best Neighborhood Bar” from Boston Magazine. The food has earned “Best Deli” from numerous publications, as well. Expect a wait on weekends. Breakfast, lunch and dinner. Inexpensive to Moderate


Rita Connelly lives in Tucson, Arizona where she enjoys the sunshine, the laid back life and all the great restaurants The Old Pueblo has to offer.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the businesses in question before making your plans.

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