What's the best restaurant in Boston?
February 28, 2009 3:39 PM   Subscribe

What's the best restaurant in Boston?

Three constraints:
1.) I have to be able to make reservations only a week in advance
2.) I don't care about price (looking for the best restaurant, not the most undervalued one)
3.) Not seafood
posted by JamesJD to Food & Drink (23 answers total) 29 users marked this as a favorite
What a loaded question. No one will be able to tell you what the "best" of anything is. But we can have favorites.

I'm partial to Icarus.
posted by kuujjuarapik at 3:42 PM on February 28, 2009

Of course it's a matter of opinion, but Zagat's top-rated place a few years ago when I used to care was Hamersley's. It's certainly got one of the most striking locations (old building near the Center for the Arts in the South End, corner of Tremont and Clarendon), with patio seating on that corner in the warm weather!
posted by Mayor Curley at 3:43 PM on February 28, 2009

Boston proper or the area?
Boston Proper: IMHO, Aujourd'hui, 200 Boylston St
Area: IMHO, Upstairs on The Square, (Winthrop Street, Cambridge, Harvard Square)
posted by Gungho at 4:01 PM on February 28, 2009

Best answer: I am a HUGE HUGE HUGE fan of L'Espalier-- though I have not been there since they moved. I was always our "celebration" place.
posted by gregvr at 4:37 PM on February 28, 2009 [1 favorite]

I am also a huge fan of L'Espalier, but Aujourd'hui consistently gets the top Zagat spot. L'Espalier does take reservations, not sure if Aujourd'hui does or not (a lot of top places in Boston do not).
posted by briank at 4:43 PM on February 28, 2009

Sel de la Terre, right off the Aquarium stop or a short walk from State. So swank it's rustic. You'll thank me.
posted by Countess Elena at 5:01 PM on February 28, 2009

Top candidates in the very fancy/expensive category are probably L'Espalier, Aujourd'hui, and Clio. L'Espalier has always been my favorite, and it just moved to a beautiful new space. Clio has more of a molecular gastronomy vibe than the others. Aujourd'hui is more traditional and formal than the others.

I think you'll be able to get a reservation at any of the three a week ahead. They all most certainly take reservations -- I don't understand at all the claim above that a lot of top places in Boston do not.
posted by Perplexity at 5:04 PM on February 28, 2009

In Cambridge, I'd vote for Craigie Street Bistro or Salts.
posted by wyzewoman at 5:16 PM on February 28, 2009 [1 favorite]

My favorite has been Les Zygomates. Highly recommend it. Meets all of your conditions, too, plenty of non-seafood options...though their swordfish is so good, you'd be doing yourself a favor if you tried it.
posted by voltairemodern at 5:28 PM on February 28, 2009

By the way, I'd love it if you reported back to the thread later on with your own results. I'm going to be moving from Boston at the end of the summer, and want to make sure to hit the best restaurants before leaving!
posted by voltairemodern at 5:33 PM on February 28, 2009

I'll second both L'Espalier and Craigie On Main (formerly Craigie Street Bistrot).
posted by dfan at 5:47 PM on February 28, 2009

Fire & Ice, one in Boston one in Cambridge. Make your own stir fry. Wonderful quality ingredients.
posted by Melismata at 6:02 PM on February 28, 2009

10 Tables in Jamaica Plain. Focus on local, seasonal food in a very intimate atmosphere. Also Harvest, in Harvard Square.
posted by cubby at 6:15 PM on February 28, 2009

If you're willing to take a trip to the north side of the charles I'll second both Salts and Craigie St.

I gig with Gabriel Bremer just before he opened up Salts and was in awe of his work ethic and technical ability. Not supprisingly, we had a few defectors from our restaurant who went to work for him (insist on Henri for your waitstaff if you go there... you'll understand why I say that).

Likewise, Tony Maws at Craigie Street is awe inspiring. I did my last 3 months as a cook with him and what his standards, his quality control and his efforts achieve are mind boggling. I have never met a man who was so committed to food as Tony Maws. Its hard to describe what 3 months of working at Craigie Street is like... lets just say, I learned more there about not only saying "Yes, Chef.", but also of living up to my chef's ideal than at any other restaurant I ever worked at. If I were to ever go back to cooking, I would have to go back to work with him. He is probably the hardest chef to work with professionally in the Boston area, but working in his kitchen was probably the pinnacle of my career. His passion and dedication to the craft told me that I had to make a choice: do I want a family, or do I want to really have a relationship with food. I would regret to this day the decision of handing in my resignation, if I was still cooking.

Of course, I think everyone in Boston never says what the real best restaurant in Boston is - mainly because most people are almost afraid to eat there: Ken Oringer's Clio. Incidentally enough, Tony Maws is alumni of that restaurant. His food is immaculate, it is well constructed, and it is out of this world. It is the restaurant in Boston which I feel like every restaurant is chasing. Chef Oringer's inspiriatons are not on par with anywhere else in the city, he is one of the few chefs which continues to actually create something unique, rather than just stack meat in a tower really well. Everything has its place, everything is well thought out, and nothing else could or should be done to his food. His food is as close to perfect as it comes. As such, the critics have opted to ignore him - he's no longer on the same playing field with the other restaurants in the city.

But, if you want something simple, funky, and utterly fantastic... somewhere jam packed with foodies who are only in the know... Head back over to the Cambridge/Somerville Line to the East Coast Grill. Since it is mostly off public transportation, its a heck of a lot harder to find. Chris Schlesinger's food is spicy, exciting, full flavored, and fun. Early on when I was cooking and I would have a few extra bucks, this is the restaurant I frequented with my buddies. I liked it so much that I worked there for 6 or 7 months. I'll add, restaurants centered around fish, which have raw bars as good as this - are great karate kid-esque lessons for efficency. I think it took me a few months to eat an oyster again after I stopped working there.

I have a great deal of respect for Rialto, Hammersley's, andLocke-Ober.
posted by Nanukthedog at 6:16 PM on February 28, 2009 [6 favorites]

Hungry Mother in Cambridge is quite popular these days. Southern roots with French style, it's a pretty unique experience. Not sure how booked they are, but give it a go. I haven't met anyone yet who has been disappointed! They also receive a lot of accolades in the press, and the owners are personable and have a lot of experience running restaurants.
posted by kuppajava at 6:47 PM on February 28, 2009 [1 favorite]

I was also going to suggest East Coast Grill...
posted by xammerboy at 8:10 PM on February 28, 2009

I'm surprised there's been no mention of No. 9 Park, which is tops in Boston in my experience.

In Cambridge, the recently relocated and renamed Craigie on Main is just about perfect.

I'll second the fantastic-ness of East Coast, though it is pretty fish-oriented.
posted by sriracha at 5:19 AM on March 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

If you want to impress your guests: try Sibling Rivalry. If you just want good grub, try La Verdad (from the same guy that opened Clio, I think) in Fenway or Pomodoro in Brookline.
posted by dilettanti at 6:47 AM on March 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

I think Oleana is the nicest place I have eaten in (assuming Cambridge is included in 'Boston'). I liked it, as I thought the food was spectacular and that it was a very unpretentious place - though it's fairly expensive.
posted by a womble is an active kind of sloth at 7:47 AM on March 1, 2009

Sibling Rivalry always has an interesting and delicious menu based on seasonal ingredients. It's located in the South End, so there are lots of great places for drinks after dinner as well.
posted by Cheeto at 7:49 AM on March 1, 2009

I thought Locke Ober was stuffy, pretentious and bad. Avoid it if you're not 65 years old and Thurston Howell III.

Hammersly's is always a joy, and if you're making it a special night, ask in advance to see if Gordon Hammersly himself is there. He's a straight-up guy.

I've never been to Oleana, but I've heard wonderful things.
posted by awenner at 3:34 PM on March 1, 2009

posted by tiburon at 7:52 PM on March 1, 2009

My vote is definitely Clio. It's amazing. However, it is pricey and the portions are not oversized. So, if you have a huge appetite, you may not be sated. I find that with an app, entree, and dessert, it's a reasonable amount of food. Ken Oringer is amazing.

Hammersly's is great.

Blue Ginger is great. We love Ming Tsai.

I know it's seafood, and not what you're interested in, but in case someone else finds this thread, I have to mention Turner Fisheries.

Love 10 Tables in JP. It's gotten a lot of press lately, so a reservation is a must.

We also really like Les Zygomates and Brasserie Jo (they have the best chocolate mousse!).

If you like dim sum, go to Chow Chau City in Chinatown.

Todd English has become over rated. Don't go to Olives. Figs can still be good though.

I don't recommend the East Coast Grill. I've been there a few times and just haven't been impressed. I've wanted to be though. :)

Avoid Fire & Ice. It's got this weird hybrid buffet vibe.

Some of my favorite pizza in Boston is at the Upper Crust.
posted by reddot at 6:50 AM on March 2, 2009

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