Boston is a great restaurant town. Every time we return, we try to visit old favorites as well as seek out the newest hot spots. While seafood (especially lobster and clams) prevails at many restaurants, you can find almost any type of food here. Restaurants come and go. And menus change frequently. But here are some of our favorite dining experiences (although we tried to group them by location, they are in no particular order), both by ourselves and with our Boston friends. This is by no means a comprehensive list of Boston restaurants, but it will give you a start of places to research.
JiangNan (Tremont Street)
We shared a delicious lunch with friends at this upscale Chinese restaurant. We started with two orders of tasty, soup-filled dumplings: pork and crab and pork and black truffle. We followed this by sharing the dish the restaurant is best known—Peking duck. This with peach iced tea and Tsingtao beer. Excellent and much recommended.
Legal Seafoods (Multiple Locations)
When a restaurant does something well consistently, it often evolves into a chain of restaurants. Boston’s fresh seafood pioneer Legal Seafoods fits the description. But whether we have eaten at one of their many casual Boston area locations, or at the airport, we have rarely been disappointed with any of their seafood dishes. You can’t go wrong here. On our 2023 trip our delicious lunch consisted of a lobster roll with the meat of a 1.5-lb lobster (served with French fries) and baked haddock coated with buttered breadcrumbs with roasted tomato and Mexican street corn with cotija cheese crema. We also made a stop at the airport location for food for our plane ride home.
Sportella (Fort Point)
Barbara Lynch has several high-end Boston restaurants. This one is Italian and is known for its pasta. We’ve eaten here previously, but in 2022, we shared six dishes with friends. We began with three appetizers: A basket of focaccia, garlic fry bread, and lavash; burrata in a mix of watercress and chili oil; and lamb meatballs with green garlic and tom. While we could have done without the bread, we enjoyed the other 2 appetizers. Then three pasta dishes: strozzapreti with braised rabbit and olives; gnocchi with lobster, mushroom ragu, peas, and truffle; and tagliatelle with bolognese, tomatoes, and cheese. While all were fine, they weren’t particularly memorable. The wine list was significantly more expensive than we thought appropriate for the restaurant, the food, or the wine. But we found a pleasant, but not exciting, 2015 Parzone Chianti Classico Gran Selezione.
Row 34 (Multiple Locations)
Row 34 is a popular, casual, Fort Point (and other locations) seafood restaurant and pub to which we had been to several times for lunch. After starting with shrimp sliders with aioli, lettuce, and cucumber, we split orders of fried oysters (good, but not as large and juicy as we prefer) and onion rings (very good). While Joyce stuck with iced tea, Tom tried one of their drafts—a Fiddlehead IPA.
On a previous trip, our lunch began with three types of local oysters on the half shell. The Row 34 oysters from Duxbury, which are grown in racks that never touch the sea floor, had a salty taste with an umami-like finish. They provided good comparisons to plumper, earthier, also salty Island Creek (also from Duxbury), and the creamy Moon Shools (from Barnstable). We followed these with a fried oyster appetizer followed by what else, two lobster rolls: one with mayo and the other naked. While the food at the packed restaurant was very good and the lobster rolls plentiful, the service was very slow, a fault that the staff more than rectified by not charging us for either of our two oyster plates.
B&G Oyster (South End)
This is another Barbara Lynch restaurant where we have eaten multiple times. But after 2 disappointing meals (most recently in 2022 and 2020), we will be taking this off of our list. Our lunch of fried oysters and fried clams were both small and dry with little taste other than the tasty cornmeal crusts.
Coppa (South End)
This casual South End restaurant is by Boston master chef Ken Orringer. The oysters escabeche with rhubarb versus and the sea urchin and tongue panino with mustard seeds were wonderful. The wood oven-roasted cod with pistachios and the lemon vinaigrette was less memorable–somewhat dry and lacking in taste. Overall, it is good enough for a return visit.
Yvonne’s is a hip, elegantly outfit remake of the venerable Locke Ober restaurant. Seven of us tried to make a mission of trying as many of the small plates on the menu as possible. While we were non-pulsed by the decibel level, which generally confined conversations to three, or perhaps four people at a time, we were all impressed by the food. These were:
- Iberico ham croquettes with smoked tomato aioli, Idizabal cheese, and pine nuts;
- Crispy duck confit with onions, fava beans, and gruyere on pita;
- Berbere carrots with burnt honey, pistachio fritters, pickled dates, and pecorino;
- Tuna crudo with jalapeno vinaigrette, pickled mango, and black bean crema;
- Seared halloumi cheese on charred eggplant with blossom honey and crisp chickpeas;
- Charred lamb ribs with za’atar, Turkish BBQ sesame yogurt and grape molasses;
- Seared octopus with blood orange, chickpea falafel, coriander, and green olive sauce; and the consensus favorite dish of the evening
- Honey walnut rock shrimp with honey-walnut sauce, chili vinaigrette, and shrimp chips.
Our group shared two desserts:
- La Bette Noir, which is black raspberry chip ice cream and chocolate pecan oatmeal cookie crumble; and
- Maple pumpkin tart with brulee crackle, gingersnap crust, toffee-crunch ice cream, pecan caramel corn, pepita seeds and mulled cranberry.
And since every good meal requires a selection of wine, we had one white and one red:
- St. Joseph Lyserus Chardonnay; and
- St. Joseph JL Chave Selection Syrah.
All, but for the noise, we were very pleased.
Mooncusser Fish House (Back Bay)
Mooncusser Fish House is in Boston’s Back Bay. We began our meal with nice, but not especially flavorful corn soup with scallop mousseline and herb cream. This was followed by two enjoyable entrees: seared scallops on heirloom tomato gratin with mushrooms and basil; and grilled swordfish with green beans, new potatoes, and smoked almonds. Our dessert of vacherin (like a pavlova) with peach, lavender, poppy, and Chantilly cream, meanwhile, was a disappointment. Our triumph of the evening, however, was in selecting a nice Premier Cru Domaine Sevrin Vaucoupin white burgundy.
Saltie Girl (Back Bay)
Saltie Girl is a small, casual, perpetually filled seafood bar in Boston’s Back Bay. We shared a lobster roll (a liberally-buttered bun stuffed with whole lobster tails and claws), and fried clams with tartar sauce. Both were good (although the clam bellies were not as big and juicy as we prefer). The service was good and the atmosphere pleasant. We were, however, taken back by the high cost of the two “market price” dishes. We are used to high restaurant prices in San Francisco and New York. But this floored even us. We’d rather go to Legal Seafoods.
Alden and Harlow (Cambridge)
Four people, ten dishes. Some, such as the kale salad, striped bass crudo, and sweet pea, and peanut hummus were very good. Others like the baby carrots with carraway creme and smoked honeycomb, seared coppa (pork loin), and Woodbury clams were disappointing. The others: braised octopus, soft shell crab, blueberry and peach galette and smoked chocolate bread pudding were pretty good but less than exciting. This being said, the atmosphere was lively, our server cheerful and helpful and the wine (Albarino) good. Overall, a mixed experience.
Trade is a casual seafood-centric restaurant by Jodi Adams. We had roasted littleneck clams with Romesco and a roasted whole lobster with clams, coconut, ginger, and straw mushrooms in a light tomato-based lobster broth). The sauce provided a little spice for the five little neck clams and baby green beans and chopped nuts provided a nice crunchy texture. The pre-halved lobster was generous for the price. Our only qualm was that the broth, while tasty, masked the delicate taste of the lobster.
J.P. Licks (Multiple locations)
While not a restaurant, we have to give honorable mention to a guilty pleasure: ice cream. While Boston’s ice cream places no longer seem to do mix-ins (where they literally mix your chosen toppings into the ice cream versus just putting them on top), the ice cream still is good. Although Joyce did exercise some self-restraint with a homemade cookie dough ice cream with a sprinkling of tiny Reese’s cups, Tom went for a coconut almond chip hot fudge sundae with Reese’s, cookie dough pieces, and blueberries. But, to prove (if only to himself) that he wasn’t a total glutton, he did have no-fat hot fudge!
But Wait There’s More
This list doesn’t even scratch the surface of our many Boston food experiences. But it does list some of our more recent culinary adventures. Other places we have liked in the past include:
- The Butcher Shop, another Barbara Lynch restaurant
- Fromaggio Kitchen (South End)