Boston Dining Planner
Eating Out Strategy
Where should we eat? With hundreds of eateries competing for your attention, it may seem like a daunting question. But fret not—our expert writers and editors have done most of the legwork. The 100-plus selections here represent the best the city has to offer. Search Best Bets for top recommendations by price, cuisine, and experience, and sample local flavor in the neighborhood features. Or find a review quickly in the listings, organized alphabetically within neighborhoods. Delve in and enjoy!
Reservations generally need to be made at least a few nights in advance, but this is easily done by your concierge, online at www.opentable.com, or by calling the restaurant directly. Tables can be hard to come by if you want to dine between 7 and 9, or on Friday or Saturday night. But most restaurants will get you in if you show up and are willing to wait.
Boston's restaurants close relatively early; most shut their doors by 10 or 11 pm, and a few have bars that stay open until 1 am. Restaurants that serve breakfast often do so until 11 am or noon, at which point they start serving lunch. Unless otherwise noted, the restaurants listed in this guide are open daily for lunch and dinner.
What to Wear
Boston is a notch or two more reserved in its fashion than New York or Los Angeles. Its dining dress code normally hovers at the level of casual chic. Few of the city's most formal restaurants require jackets, and even at some of the most expensive places jeans are acceptable as long as they're paired with a dressy top and posh shoes. Shorts are appropriate only in the most casual spots. When in doubt, call and ask.
Entrée prices fluctuate with the state of the economy. Top-tier restaurants remain impervious to market changes, but more restaurants are accommodating every price range with small or half portions at a lower price.
Credit cards are widely accepted, but some restaurants accept only cash. If you plan to use a credit card, it's a good idea to double-check when making reservations or before sitting down to eat.
Tipping and Taxes
Never tip the maître d'. In most restaurants, tip the waiter at least 15% to 20% (to figure the amount quickly, double the 7% tax on the bill and add a little more). Bills for parties of six or more sometimes include service. Tip at least $1 per drink at the bar and $1 for each coat checked.
To eat like an Italian, you've got to know your sfogliatelle from your amaretti. Local foodie Michele Topor schools visitors on the "right" kind of olive oil and the primo places to buy Italian pastries during three-hour tours with her Boston Food Tours North End Market Tour (6 Charter St. 617/523–6032), which get off the beaten Hanover Street path. The $54 tour includes a few sample noshes. Due to high demand, Topor also offers a Gluten-free North End Market Tour with cookie samples included, $57.
Though it's unusual to see children in the dining rooms of Boston's most elite restaurants, dining with youngsters does not have to mean culinary exile. Many of the restaurants reviewed in this chapter are excellent choices for families and are accordingly marked.
In both Boston and Cambridge, smoking is prohibited in all enclosed public spaces, including restaurants and bars.