Boston Restaurants

In a city synonymous with tradition, Boston chefs have spent recent years rewriting culinary history. The stuffy, wood-paneled formality is gone; the endless renditions of chowdah, lobster, and cod have retired; and the assumption that true foodies better hop the next Amtrak to New York is also—thankfully—a thing of the past.

In their place, a crop of young chefs has ascended, opening small, upscale neighborhood spots that use local New England ingredients to delicious effect. Traditional eats can still be found (Durgin-Park remains the best place to get baked beans), but many diners now gravitate toward innovative food in understated environs. Whether you're looking for casual French, down-home Southern cooking, some of the best sushi in the country, or Vietnamese banh mi sandwiches, Boston restaurants are ready to deliver. Eclectic Japanese spot o ya and iconic French restaurant L'Espalier have garnered widespread attention, while a coterie of star chefs like Barbara Lynch, Lydia Shire, and Ken Oringer have built mini-empires and thrust the city to the forefront of the national dining scene.

The fish and shellfish brought in from nearby shores continue to inform the regional cuisine, along with locally grown fruits and vegetables, handmade cheeses, and humanely raised heritage game and meats. But don't expect boiled lobsters and baked apple pie. Today’s chefs, while showcasing New England’s bounty, might offer you lobster cassoulet with black truffles, bacon-clam pizza from a wood-burning oven, and a tomato herb salad harvested from the restaurant’s rooftop garden. In many ways, though, Boston remains solidly skeptical of trends. To wit: the cupcake craze and food truck trend hit here later than other cities; the Hawaii-inspired poke movement has only recently arrived. And over in the university culture of Cambridge, places like the Harvest and Oleana espoused the locavore and slow-food movements before they became buzzwords.

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  • 1. Angela's Café

    $$ | East Boston | Mexican

    Colorful and airy, this East Boston Mexican restaurant reflects the culture of many living in the neighborhood, and its eponymous cook re-creates...Read More

  • 2. Antico Forno

    $$ | North End | Italian

    Many of the menu choices here come from the eponymous wood-burning brick oven, which turns out surprisingly delicate thin-crust pizzas simply...Read More

  • 3. Area Four

    $$ | Modern American

    A bona fide hit from day one, everything at this glass-enclosed eatery in the avant-garde Technology Square area is scrumptious—from the morning...Read More

  • 4. Atlantic Fish Co

    $$$ | Back Bay | Seafood

    Designed to look like an ocean vessel with gorgeous wood finishes and nautical artwork, this local seafood restaurant delivers first-class fish...Read More

  • 5. Bastille Kitchen

    $$$ | Fort Point Channel | French

    Clubby, homey, grand: all describe the look and feel of this Fort Point–located, contemporary French restaurant that will provide one of the...Read More

  • 6. Bostonia Public House

    $$$ | Downtown | American

    Airy and classic in atmosphere, this modern restaurant focuses on two things: food and local history (it is, after all, situated in a historic...Read More

  • 7. Caffe Vittoria

    $ | North End | Italian

    Established in 1929, Caffe Vittoria—Boston's oldest Italian café—is rightfully known as Boston's most traditional Italian café, which is one...Read More

  • 8. Cutty's

    $ | Coolidge Corner | American

    Don't be fooled by this self-named "sandwich shop," which belies the care, creativity, and culinary quality of the luscious offerings found...Read More

  • 9. Daily Catch

    $$ | North End | Seafood

    You've just got to love this shoebox-size place—for the noise, the intimacy, the complete absence of pretense, and, above all, the Sicilian...Read More

  • 10. Davio's Northern Italian Steakhouse

    $$$$ | Back Bay | Italian

    Comfy armchairs and a grand, high-ceilinged dining room give diners a heightened sense of self-importance, beginning with lunch when the city...Read More

  • 11. Deuxave

    $$$ | Back Bay | Modern American

    At the corner of two avenues (Commonwealth and Massachusetts), which is how this restaurant got its name (deux is French for "two"), you'll...Read More

  • 12. Eastern Standard Kitchen and Drinks

    $$$ | Kenmore Square | American

    A vivid red awning beckons patrons of this spacious brasserie-style restaurant with menus for breakfast, lunch, midday, dinner, and late night...Read More

  • 13. Flour Bakery + Café

    $ | South End | American

    When folks need coffee, a great sandwich, or an irresistible sweet, like a pecan sticky bun, lemon tart, or double chocolate cookie—or just...Read More

  • 14. Fox & the Knife Enoteca

    $$$ | South Boston | Italian

    James Beard Award–winning Best Chef Karen Akunowicz steps up with hearty, traditional Italian food (not to be confused with Italian-American...Read More

  • 15. Gracenote Coffee

    $ | Chinatown | Café

    Gracenote roasts top-shelf coffee beans using its own unique process here in Massachusetts, and then serves it in a teeny Leather District storefront...Read More

  • 16. Grill 23 & Bar

    $$$$ | Back Bay | Steakhouse

    Pinstripe suits, dark paneling, Persian rugs, and waiters in white jackets give this single-location steak house a posh tone, and the kitchen...Read More

  • 17. Harvest

    $$$ | Brattle Street | American

    Once a favorite of former Cambridge resident Julia Child, this sophisticated shrine to New England cuisine has been a perennial go-to spot for...Read More

  • 18. Hei-La Moon

    $ | Chinatown | Chinese

    Hei-La Moon is located on Beach Street, but don't get lost looking for it; you have to put Chinatown at your back and cross Surface Road, almost...Read More

  • 19. Island Creek Oyster Bar

    $$$ | Kenmore Square | Seafood

    As the name indicates, this Hotel Commonwealth restaurant specializes in seafood, beginning with oysters that come fresh from the restaurant...Read More

  • 20. L'Espalier

    $$$$ | Back Bay | French

    Adjacent to the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, this elegant French restaurant, with floor-to-ceiling windows and modern decor, is the sort of place...Read More

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