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. Caffe Vittoria

    $ | North End | Italian

    Caffe Vittoria is rightfully known as Boston's most traditional Italian café. Gleaming brass, marble tabletops, and one of the city's best selections...Read More

  • 2. 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

  • 3. Babbo Pizzeria

    $ | Downtown | Italian

    With his signature ponytail and orange clogs, celebrity chef Mario Batali is the name behind this bountiful pizzeria with three bars and a 1...Read More

  • 4. Barking Crab Restaurant

    $$$ | Waterfront | Seafood

    Decked out in cheery colors of yellow, red, and green, this is, believe it or not, a real seaside clam shack located smack dab in the middle...Read More

  • 5. Bella Luna & The Milky Way

    $$ | Jamaica Plain | Italian

    Tucked away in The Brewery Complex, home to myriad small businesses, including Samuel Adams beer, this restaurant-cum-nightclub offers sci-fi...Read More

  • 6. Bova's Bakery

    $ | North End | Italian

    The allure of Bova's Bakery, a neighborhood institution, lies not only in its takeaway Italian breads, calzones, and pastries, but also in its...Read More

  • 7. Dumpling Cafe

    $ | Chinatown | Chinese

    Discerning diners stream into this no-frills Taiwanese and Szechuan eatery to slurp down the house specialty—wobbly, Mini Juicy Buns (soup dumplings...Read More

  • 8. Full Moon

    $$ | American

    Here's a happy reminder that dinner with children doesn't have to mean hamburgers and juice for everyone. While the youngsters race around the...Read More

  • 9. J.P. Licks

    $ | American

    The locally owned-and-operated J.P. Licks scoops homemade ice cream, frozen yogurts, sherbet, and sorbet in all the basic varieties, plus there...Read More

  • 10. Le's

    $ | Vietnamese

    Vietnamese noodle soup called pho is the name of the game in this quick and casual eatery (it's set inside the Garage, a small mall in Harvard...Read More

  • 11. Legal Sea Foods

    $$$ | Downtown | Seafood

    What began as a tiny restaurant adjacent to a Cambridge fish market has grown to important regional status, with more than 30 East Coast locations...Read More

  • 12. Parish Café

    $$ | Back Bay | American

    To try the creations of some of the best local chefs without paying four-star-restaurant prices, stop by Parish Café. For $12 to $20 you can...Read More

  • 13. Q Restaurant

    $ | Chinatown | Asian

    For a more upscale Chinatown experience, look no farther than this sleek Asian outpost with a full cocktail menu, extensive sushi bar, and addictive...Read More

  • 14. Summer Shack

    $$ | Back Bay | American

    Boston uberchef Jasper White has given New England seafood an urban tweak in his boisterous, bright, fun eatery next to the Prudential Center...Read More

  • 15. Zaftigs

    $ | American

    How refreshing to have a contemporary version of a Jewish delicatessen offering genuinely lean corned beef, a modest slice of cheesecake, low...Read More

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