From butter-drenched lobsters to pork-topped ramen, Boston’s culinary offerings are made all the richer by the many people who call the city home. People from Ireland settled here in the 1850s after the Great Famine while industrial growth several decades later brought significant Chinese, Italian, Russian, and Portuguese populations. Diversity is a strength in Boston’s restaurants. Most of the city’s seasonal, locavore restaurants are proud to serve ingredients from the region’s superb fisheries, farms, dairies, cranberry bogs, and maple sugar shacks.
These are the best restaurants to eat at in Boston’s hottest neighborhoods.
Island Creek Oyster Bar $$$ — If local seafood tops your dining agenda, head to this boisterous seafood restaurant inside Hotel Commonwealth for bivalves sourced from its own nearby oyster farm. Some local favorites include crispy salt and pepper Maine shrimp over grits, hand-dug fried Ipswich clams, New Bedford scallops with charred scallion aioli, and plenty of local lobster that comes swimming in a creamy bisque, tucked into a lobster roll, or grilled and served over lobster roe noodles with braised short ribs.
Where: 500 Commonwealth Avenue, Boston, MA 02215
Mistral $$$ — Chef Jamie Mammano has been turning out stylish Mediterranean favorites at this romantic, white-walled restaurant that’s reminiscent of a Provençal manor house. In addition to French favorites like buttery escargot and seared foie gras, you’ll find seasonal offerings, such as pan-roasted halibut with lump crab risotto and crispy roasted duck with dried cherry sauce.
Where: 223 Columbus Ave, Boston, MA 02116
Summer Shack $$ — Near the Prudential shopping center in the Back Bay, you’ll find the most tender, perfectly cooked lobster in town here. The quality is thanks to chef-owner, Jasper White, who patented the cooking process. Savor that succulent crustacean “in the rough” (steamed with melted butter), as part of a clam bake (with steamed mussels, clams, corn, and potatoes), grilled, pan-roasted with bourbon, or butter-poached and dressed in mayo in a lobster roll. This lively, colorful, family-friendly restaurant has wooden tables, tiki cocktails, chalkboard specials, and Boston’s largest raw bar that holds 2,000-plus morsels of seafood. It also offers both dressy to casual options ranging from seafood towers and pan-roasted haddock with mushroom sherry butter to lobster-corn fritters and shack-style fish tacos. Yes, there’s also steak if you’re not up for seafood.
Where: 50 Dalton St, Boston, MA 02115
Scampo $$$ — Located inside The Liberty Hotel, which was formerly the Charles Street Jail, you’ll find this buzzy, brick-walled Italian restaurant and its big, bold food. A tandoori oven plays a central role on the menu, which blisters and chars the many breads and pizzas available in the perfect way, including the supremely popular white clam and bacon pizza. Meat and fish entrees are also cooked in the tandoori. And that’s not all — there is a mozzarella bar serving the milky cheese in various ways, including as part of spaghetti dishes, specials, steaks, sides, and homemade pastas and rice dishes, like deviled crab risotto.
Where: 215 Charles St, Boston, MA 02114
Tatte Bakery & Cafe $$ — A cheerful and airy white space with a communal wooden table (along with several side tables and stools) where you can savor luscious homemade pastries, superb coffee drinks, hearty salads, vegetable-grain bowls, soups, sandwiches, and shakshuka, which the café offers in several variations throughout the day.
Where: 70 Charles St. Boston, MA 02114
Toro $$$ — One of the first restaurants in Boston to offer tapas, including the standout grilled corn topped with aioli, lime, and aged cheese. The mainly Spanish wine list nicely complements the Barcelona-inspired plates served on simple wooden tables in a boisterous space.
Where: 1704 Washington St, Boston, MA 02118
Meyers + Chang $$ — Chef Joanne Chang and her husband, Christopher Meyers, are the masterminds behind this pan-Asian-inspired South End diner with a cult following. The menu dishes up plenty of heat and pizazz, like green papaya salad with pepper and peanuts, spicy tuna poke, and fried chicken with ginger waffles. Chang first made her name in the city as a pastry chef and owns multiple Flour Bakery + Café shops, so be sure to save room for dessert, whether it’s lemon-ginger mousse with a homemade fortune cookie or coconut cream pie.
Where: 1145 Washington St, Boston, MA 02118
Troquet on South $$$ — A modern French restaurant owned by sommelier Chris Campbell that offers approximately 50 wines by the glass in two- or four-ounce pours and a wine book that’s heavy on French red wines. Start your evening with a pour from the Champagne cart, then move on to any of the hearty, wine-friendly dishes, like beef bourguignon or lamb saddle with French truffles and black garlic. All the dishes are listed with suggested wine pairings.
Where: 107 South St, Boston, MA 02111
Q Restaurant $$ — Where to go if you’re hankering for some sushi or a hearty Mongolian hot pot. You’ll find nearly 50 kinds of maki rolls along with over a dozen different broth bases for the hot pots, including vegetarian options. This sleek restaurant also offers a number of traditional Chinese favorites from ma po tofu to steamed flounder with pickled cabbage.
Where: 660 Washington St, Boston, MA 02111
The Daily Catch $$ — Garlic, garlic, and more garlic with seafood and pasta sums up what The Daily Catch does best. This small, 20-seat spot with a chalkboard menu opened in 1973 and still draws regulars who wait in line (no reservations) for the restaurant’s signature linguini tossed with a white sauce of ground calamari, olive oil, anchovies, and garlic (bring the breath mints). Try any of the fish or seafood options, such as the monkfish marsala. Beer, wine, and cordials are available.
Where: 323 Hanover St, Boston, MA 02113
Prezza $$$ — An inviting, upscale restaurant where you’ll find generous portions of beautifully prepared, seasonal, homestyle Italian cooking. All the pasta is made in-house, and a wood grill adds a lick of smoke to entrees like grilled swordfish and veal porterhouse with roasted mushrooms and rosemary.
Where: 24 Fleet St, Boston, MA 02113
Eastern Standard $$$ — A hit from day one, this boisterous New England brasserie is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The food is complemented by a cocktail program where some of the city’s top bartenders got their start. Dinner options hit all cylinders with offerings that range from salads and sandwiches to raw bar offerings and steak frites. There’s also a plat du jour.
Where: 528 Commonwealth Avenue, Boston, MA 02215
Sweet Cheeks Q $$ — Come for smoky and moist Texas-style BBQ, including pulled pork and chicken, sausages, ribs, and chopped beef brisket. Order a plate with two sides, which range from hot collard greens to cold potato salad, pickles, and onions. The huge, lofty biscuits with honey butter are a must.
Where: 1381 Boylston St, Boston, MA 02215
Hojoko $$$ — With sake bombs, retro décor, and sushi (as well as a midnight munchie menu), Hojoko dishes up kitschy cool fun. Small plates, bowls, and grilled items fill the menu with tasty tidbits like crispy nori tuna tacos, kimchi fried rice with shrimp, bacon and a fried egg, and “Funky Chicken Ramen” made with a 48-hour chicken broth. Next door, you’ll find The Groove at Hojoko, a tiny, Tokyo-style vinyl lounge with strong drinks and a chill vibe.
Where: 1271 Boylston St, Boston, MA 02215
Lolita Cocina & Tequila Bar $$ — Bursting with energy, color, and fun, the Fort Point location of Lolita Cocina & Tequila Bar sits in a cavernous brick space with wooden floors, chandeliers, and plenty of tequila blended into margaritas and mojitos that are jazzed up with lime, ginger, watermelon, hot peppers, and more. The menu is complete with cilantro-flecked guacamole, grilled fish tacos, dinner salads, and sandwiches like the pork carnitas BLT.
Where: 271 Dartmouth St, Boston, MA 02116
Chickadee $$ — In a city with little parking, Chickadee has plenty of it. Which is a good thing because the excellent cocktails and Mediterranean-style small plates packed with goodies from nearby farms are a big draw. Under the vegetable section, find a grilled carrot salad with avocado hummus and hazelnuts. There are silky homemade pastas and mains like striped bass with squash, apples, and leek. Don’t miss the crispy, creamy-centered chickpea panisse fries served with preserved lemon aioli.
Where: 21 Drydock Ave, Boston, MA 02210