Top 10 restaurants and cafes in Boston

October 3, 2013

Seafood or comfort food, pizza or sushi, Boston’s restaurant scene offers all kinds of good eating. Here’s 10 of its best

Summer Shack

In New England, you’re never far from a lobster dinner. At Summer Shack, the emphasis is on fresh local seafood, served with few frills in a laidback, child-friendly atmosphere. Encased in a crisp coating, the fried clams ($14) are luscious and creamy; order these to start. The lobsters are available in various sizes, and can be boiled, baked, wood-grilled, or pan- or oven-roasted. For a delicious departure from tradition, try one pan-roasted with bourbon, chervil and chives. Finish with Indian pudding, a classic New England dessert with cornmeal, cinnamon, and molasses.
149 Alewife Brook Parkway, Cambridge, +1 617 520-9500 and 50 Dalton Street, Boston, +1 617 867-9955, Open daily 11.30am-10pm. Mains from $19


Alex Crabb opened Asta in early 2013 and, after just nine months, Boston Magazine named it “Best New Restaurant”. The restaurant offers three, five and eight-course menus which change regularly, showcasing Crabb’s creativity and impeccable technique in whimsical dishes such as “after the storm” (seaweed, salmon roe and mussels) and “the great escape” (escargots, market bounty, green goddess dressing) While the combinations may seem esoteric, the flavours are surprisingly complementary. The wine list is expertly curated and, if you’re feeling decadent, order the eight-course menu with pairings. The casual decor features an open kitchen surrounded by a dining bar; perch at the counter for an inside look at Crabb and his highly skilled crew.
• 47 Massachusetts Avenue, +1 617 585 9575, Tues-Sat 6pm-10.30pm. Three courses $45, five courses $70, and eight courses $95

East Coast Grill

Entering East Coast Grill, you are transported to a marine-inspired tiki lounge, complete with an island-themed bar and umbrellas tucked into somewhat lethal cocktails. To start, order the tuna tacos – lightly seared ahi tuna, accompanied by crisp jicama and watercress – along with punchy buffalo shrimp, likely to disappear from the plate within seconds. The kitchen at East Coast Grill is equally proficient in dishes from land and sea, and a slab of the dry-rubbed ribs are a must, with a hunk of fresh cornbread and a cooling wedge of watermelon. For dessert, head just two doors down to Christina’s Ice Cream, for some of its ambrosial homemade ice cream.
• 1271 Cambridge Street, Cambridge, +1 617 491 6568, Sun-Thurs 5.30pm-10pm, Fri-Sat 5.30pm-10.30pm, Sunday brunch 11am-2.30pm. Starters from $7, mains from $18

Hi-Rise Bakery

Hi-Rise bakery on Cambridge’s Concord Avenue is a feast for the senses: the sight of bakers mixing, kneading and shaping loaves in the open bakery. The yeasty aroma of baking baguettes and sourdough boules immediately envelopes you, followed up by the taste of buttery, jam-filled brioches and fruit tarts, nearly 60 sandwich varieties, a repertoire of soups and, of course, a huge range of breads – all homemade. Growing up just a stone’s throw from the bakery, I’m a seasoned customer, but if the sandwich options overwhelm you, try the popular Fern’s Problem Solver (house-roasted turkey, Monterrey jack cheese, avocado, and Russian dressing all grilled on fresh sourdough). For a sweet treat, sample the “little sandwich cookie”: thick slabs of chocolate biscuit filled with soft, sinful vanilla buttercream.
• 208 Concord Avenue (at Huron), Cambridge, +1 617 876 8766, Mon-Fri 8am-8pm, Sat 8am-5pm, Sun 8am-3pm

Hungry Mother

Given its east coast mentality, Boston isn’t known for its southern American cuisine. Hungry Mother is the exception, serving sophisticated twists on southern staples. Instead of a traditional dining room set-up, the restaurant is built inside a house in Cambridge’s Kendall Square near MIT. The seasonally inspired menu changes daily, but you can never go wrong with an order of “antebellum” cornbread and a side of creamy, ham-studded grits. The cocktail selection is terrific, including unique after-dinner drinks such as the Monkey Flip with rum, banana liqueur, egg and Punt e Mes vermouth.
• 233 Cardinal Medeiros Avenue, Cambridge, +1 617 499 0090, Tues-Sun 5pm-10.30pm. Starters from $6, mains from $23

Myers and Chang

Although it’s far from traditional, with hip-hop blaring in the background and playful dishes spanning a range of Asian culinary traditions, Myers and Chang’s dim sum is my go-to weekend lunch. The menu bounces from Vietnam to Korea and back to China, with dishes such as green papaya slaw (unless you’re a glutton for heat, request it on the milder side), silky tofu with kimchee and spicy pork, and wok-roasted mussels, which arrive in a sultry lemon grass and ginger broth. (Ask for an extra order of toast – you’ll want to mop up every last drop!) For a refreshing close to the meal, order the vanilla bean parfait topped with delicate fresh orange granita.
• 1145 Washington Street, +1 617 542-5200, Sun-Thurs 11.30am-10pm, Fri-Sat 11.30am-11pm. Dim sum from $6 each

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Neptune Oyster

Don’t let the wait for a table at Neptune deter you from an outstanding meal. Stay the course and you’ll be rewarded. Exuding a French bistro vibe, Neptune serves exceedingly fresh seafood and, true to its name, a wealth of oysters from both coasts. The lobster roll ($27) a warm buttered bun filled to the brim with succulent chunks, is, I think, the best in the city. Don’t miss the buttermilk johnnycake, a classic New England cornmeal flatbread topped with honey butter, trout tartare, and California caviar.
63 Salem Street, +1 617 742 3474, Mon-Fri 11.30am-9.30pm, Sat-Sun 11.30am-10.30pm. Mains from $25

Puritan and Company

Barely a year old, Puritan and Co has already made waves in the Boston restaurant scene, earning a nomination for Best New Restaurant from Bon Appétit magazine. The menu changes frequently, reflecting the seasonal wealth of New England ingredients. Dishes are both innovative and comfortingly familiar, like the fiercely addictive gougères: puffs of cloud-like pastry stuffed with a molten cheesy surprise. The menu celebrates vegetables as much as meat: dishes such as the hearty assiette of lamb with ratatouille and jus are found alongside a revelatory preparation of hay-roasted carrots with yoghurt, dill and trout roe.
• 1166 Cambridge Street, Cambridge, +1 617 615-6195, Sun-Thurs 5.30pm-11pm, Fri-Sat 5.30pm-midnight, Sunday brunch 11am-2pm. Mains from $17


If you’re hungry for pizza in Boston, any right-minded local will direct you to Santarpio’s. Originally opened as a bakery in 1903, Santarpio’s has existed in east Boston since 1933, selling foldable, thin-crust “New York-style” pies ever since. The walls are adorned with boxing memorabilia and posters, and the scent of grilling lamb tips and spicy sausages engulfs you upon entry. Stick to pizza, though, and go for a classic pie with roasted garlic, crumbles of Italian sausage and, of course, plenty of melty mozzarella. Chewy yet slightly crisp, the crust is a perfect foil for the toppings, with the fragrant garlic and sausage adding depth to the flavourful tomato sauce and rich gooey cheese.
111 Chelsea Street, +1 617 567 9871, Mon-Thurs, and Sun 11.30am-10pm, Fri-Sat 11.30am-11pm. Pizzas from $9.50

Sofra Bakery

Her combination of traditional techniques, farm-fresh ingredients and modern influences has made Ana Sortun’s brand of Turkish cuisine legendary in the Boston area. After the success of her restaurant Oleana, she opened Sofra in 2008, a casual cafe and bakery on the Cambridge-Watertown border. As you’re greeted by the scent of freshly baked pitta, explore the spice-filled retail area, which feels like a mini-souk. I’m always mesmerised by the enticing array of mezze. Don’t miss the beetroot tzatziki and buttered hummus, served with homemade flatbreads including pitta and crunchy seed-topped “crick cracks”. I can never resist the lamb shwarma with mixed pickles, yoghurt and tahini, and rarely leave without a sticky chocolate-hazelnut baklava for later.
1 Belmont Street, Cambridge, +1 617 661-3161, Mon-Fri 8am-8pm, Sat-Sun 8am-6pm. Platter of five mezze $9

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Leah Bhabha is a freelance writer living and working in New York. She blogs at

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