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what is the single best restaurant you've been to in Boston area?

feel like I need to start exploring based only on recommendations, and not just drop in, because I find a lot of disappointments...

I am rather new her :-)


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  1. I don't go to very fancy/expensive restaurants, so the best restaurant I've been to here is probably either JM Curley or The Abbey. Everything I've had at both places (drinks and food) has been fantastic.

    1. Welcome to Chowhound!

      I think it's awful hard to say a "single best restaurant," because so many of them are good at different things. I adore Sound Bites and I adore L'Espalier, both for experience and for food, but they are very different.

      Roger Ebert said it better than I ever could: "The star rating system is relative, not absolute. When you ask a friend if Hellboy is any good, you're not asking if it's any good compared to Mystic River, you're asking if it's any good compared to The Punisher. And my answer would be, on a scale of one to four, if Superman (1978) is four, then Hellboy is three and The Punisher is two."

      That said, the single best restaurant I've been to in the Boston area, at least today, is Oasis Restaurant, a Brazilian churrascuria in Medford. I always find a plateful of vegetables at the buffet that are actually tasty as well as healthy, and then top it with a little bit of meat - rare sirloin steak, or pork sausage, or chicken hearts - and then save room for one slice of shockingly delicious sugar-browned grilled pineapple.

      1. I think you need to narrow your request. Are you looking for best fine dining? Ethnic? Local gem? Lunch? Dinner! Brunch? Atmosphere?

        My answer would be different for most.

        1. Bergamot in Cambridge never disappoints and frequently delights in terms of food, drinks, and service.

          Toraya in Arlington is always top notch, delicious, fresh classic Japanese and sushi

          Neptune Oyster in the North End is always worth the wait.

          Island Creek Oyster House coupled with The Hawthorne for cocktails is a fantastic combination every single time.

          3 Replies
          1. re: rlh

            What do you think of the Bergamot desserts?

            1. re: rlh

              Finally hit Neptune Oyster this past weekend. Icredible. Me and DC spit a lobster roll, which was quite good and lived up to the hype here and elsewhere. What really impressed though was the seared scallops on a bed of brussels sprouts and duck confit. Wow.

              1. re: rlh

                I agree with Bergamot, although it is in Somerville, not Cambridge.

                1. I think Highland Kitchen, Gran Gusto and Clover are THE best!

                  1. Rendezvous in Central Square. It's the only restaurant that I can walk into and be relaxed. I know there will be something not to complicated, but not boring on the menu that I want to eat. I know the service will be prompt and friendly. And I know I will start my meal with Iggys bread and end it with a truly fantastice lemon dessert.

                    1. It might help us in our recommendations if you told us where you've been disappointed.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: Allstonian

                        i was thinking this too.

                        and are you new to boston? or new to the board?

                      2. Impossible for me to answer, because I've been to so many good ones. Having said that, a few of my personal favorites include Dok Bua in Brookline, jm Curley in Downtown Crossing, and Taqueria El Amigo in Waltham.

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: hiddenboston

                          dok bua's nowhere near the best, even in Brookline.

                          1. re: fara

                            What do you like better in Brookline--Rod Dee? Khao Sarn? I like Khao Sarn a lot as well, though I haven't been there in awhile.

                            1. re: hiddenboston

                              Dok Bua is the best in Brookline IMO: S & I is the best overall but is in Allston.

                            1. re: Madrid

                              yes. She just. never. screws. up.

                                1. re: enhF94

                                  At Oleana I ordered the vegetarian tasting menu and not one dish was good. The rest of the table ordered all kinds of tasty things many of which were excellent.

                                  1. re: fara

                                    wow. the opposite of my experience for the veg tasting. The two us ordered one veg tasting and supplemented with a couple of meat and fish dishes and we were impressed and satisfied, Do you remember which dishes weren't good?

                            2. If you really limited me to only one answer, I think my answer would be different depending on the moment you asked me. At this moment, however, I'd answer Biryani Park.

                              1. I have never been disappointed by Bondir, Oishii Chestnut Hill, or Sushi Island.

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: Gabatta

                                  I've only ever been disappointed by Bondir. I dunno what my problem is.

                                  1. re: enhF94

                                    Some of their things went a little too far for me. I'm thinking specifically of "The Sea" bread with dehydrated shrimp and squid ink. Not what I'm looking for in bread.

                                2. Catalyst never fails. Lovely service, great food, free parking.

                                  3 Replies
                                  1. re: MartyF1112

                                    on the high end, L'Espalier. On the other end, Shanghai Gate. In the middle, Eastern Standard

                                    1. re: MartyF1112

                                      would have to disagree. had one meal there and it was terrible. rabbit was too soft, sauce was too bland and pedestrian. service and ambience were stone cold in a bad way.

                                      1. re: fara

                                        That's too bad. We're at Catalyst quite often, and we've never left disappointed in the food.

                                        We always sit at the bar, and the service can be spotty at times for sure. They've lost two of their better bartenders to Area Four and Giulia, so we've noticed this more recently.

                                    2. I'll play. L'Espailer and O Ya at the high end. Toro at the medium end. Gourmet Dumpling House at the low end.

                                      1. Just go with the holy trinity: Clio, Toro, Myers + Chang.

                                        Trust me. Clio is posh and ultra high-end French/American which spanks L'Espalier on like 10 different levels I am happy to discuss. Toro is bustling, popular, and slightly less pricy Spanish cuisine. And Myers + Chang is casual, hip, young Asian Fusion. All are operated by James Beard Award winners and all are exquisite. These recommendations are the product of more trial and error than I would ever care to mention.

                                        15 Replies
                                        1. re: HungryNihilist

                                          I'll go with Strip-T's. To me, best combination of flavors, innovation, and value.

                                          I'm very confused by this holy trinity comment... I guess that's your holy trinity?

                                            1. re: tysonmcneely

                                              Strip T's is nowhere near Boston. Did you even bother to read the title of this post? It is also really overrated. And no, it is not my holy trinity, it is the holy trinity. Period.

                                              1. re: HungryNihilist

                                                The title says "Boston area," and Strip T's is literally within walking distance of the Boston line. (Though I wouldn't do that walk today--too rainy.)

                                                1. re: HungryNihilist

                                                  Certainly that's not my holy trinity, and OP did say "Boston area."

                                                  1. re: HungryNihilist

                                                    Anytime someone asks for recommendations for awesomeness and says "Boston", my inclination is to go at least as far as 128 and possibly as far as 495. It would be silly to think of Boston solely in terms of its city limits; Chelsea, Somerville, Cambridge, Watertown, and Brookline are all closer to Boston's "center" (which I tend to think of as the State House) than Boston's outer neighborhoods.


                                                    1. re: MC Slim JB

                                                      Haha ok, I have to admit I was wrong. You guys all have pretty valid points. Chow on Chowhounds.

                                                      1. re: MC Slim JB

                                                        Unless someone states "boston proper" (which opens another can of worms altogether) I'm generally cool with "Boston" meaning anything which can be easily gotten to w/o a car - ie within a mile or so of a T stop, near a reasonable bus line, etc.

                                                        An addendum to this is that my tolerance for what "boston" means expands geographically in proportion to how far away from the area someone is. If someone from California tells me about a place in Boston, I'm not going to be surprised if it's really in Springfield.

                                                  2. re: HungryNihilist

                                                    In my opinion, a huge part of the dining experience is how pleasant the entire evening is, start to finish. My last two visits to Toro involved a two hour wait (visit #1) and a three hour wait (visit #2). Bustling is putting it mildly.

                                                    1. re: Boston_Otter

                                                      I will agree with that - it's nice to be able to make a reservation and show up to a small wait or your table immediately. Good Point

                                                      1. re: Boston_Otter

                                                        that's insanity and one of the reasons i rarely go. nothing tastes good to me after a 3-hour wait. i try to hit coppa early or mid-afternoon and that's how i get that fix.

                                                        similar reason for not going to drink. i appreciate the complexity of the craft cocktail service but waiting 30 minutes for a drink makes me enraged.

                                                        clio is a splurge to me so not something in my regular rotation.

                                                        had a fantastic lunch yesterday at eastern standard including a bitter mai tai, crispy pig tails with watermelon and fresh chilis, and duck confit with a poached egg and bitter greens.

                                                        last week had the 3 crudos at neptune and they were swoony good.

                                                        have been super happy with drinks and food at west bridge and area 4.

                                                        am always quietly blown away at hammersley's, by both food and service.

                                                        1. re: hotoynoodle

                                                          I joke around that the sushi bar across the street from Toro is kept in business by Toro's wait-list. The last time I went there, I got to Toro at 7:30 and was told "it'll be about an hour, you can wait across the street at the sushi bar & we'll call you". The place was packed with people who had all been sent there by Toro to wait for a spot.

                                                          By the time we were seated at 10:30, we'd eaten a considerable amount of sushi and everyone was in a horrible mood. Sliders, bone marrow, and elotes corn aren't worth a three hour wait.

                                                        2. re: Boston_Otter

                                                          2 and 3 hour waits! What, was Sinatra singing there? I realy hope you more than enjoyed,

                                                          1. re: Boston_Otter

                                                            Agreed, while it's hard to fault the restaurant directly for this, it's still a fault in my mind and a reason I rarely go to Toro. I have the same issue with Neptune.

                                                            And no, going at 3pm on a Monday is not a "solution" in my eyes.

                                                            1. re: Klunco

                                                              To Toro's credit, they were more than helpful. They gave me frequent updates, they never once looked impatient or irritated, and they explained exactly why things were being delayed (a very large group that had reserved most of the dining room and was taking much longer than expected, which the maitre'd folks were clearly not happy about).

                                                        3. Talk about your impossible questions!

                                                          I suppose I'd have to look at this in the context of the question, "How well does it do what it's trying to do?" By that standard, I might say Boston Speed's Famous Hot Dog Wagon in the Ezra Anderson era. Exceptional ingredients, tons of loving handcraft, an original variation on a classic concept executed exceptionally well, plus an out-of-the-way location and the thrill of pursuit, since as he got on in years, Speed wasn't always reliably there for his posted hours. It was a classic Chowhound kind of experience.


                                                          4 Replies
                                                          1. re: MC Slim JB

                                                            a very good answer.

                                                            here is something that even new yorkers and chicagoans and san franciscans would want to try

                                                            perhaps o ya or uni fit that, also, but not many other places.

                                                            1. re: cambridgedoctpr

                                                              While they may suit the OP for a great meal, New Yorkers have much better Japanese options than O Ya or Uni.

                                                              1. re: Gabatta

                                                                masa and yasuda are better; i agree.

                                                            2. re: MC Slim JB

                                                              Had my first Speed Dog recently - that's one impressive dog!

                                                            3. i don't know about single best restaurant, but try the pork board and pea ravioli at Sycamore (Newton)

                                                              1. This is a very difficult post, I agree.

                                                                I have a hard time thinking Toro doesn't win out as a "single best" because if I had my druthers, I would be there nightly.

                                                                Other favorites though include Grotto and Stella for Boston

                                                                Kendall Square - Hungry mother

                                                                1. L'Espalier and Menton and Oh Ya are top tier and I would rank as the best.. I would point out that Owlette didn't give qualifiers, so it makes sense that the question is "best overall".. So no responding with "This is the best restaurant that seats 10-14 people, has turkish cuisine, is open only for lunch, and is reasonably priced" :) And yes, you can have a best overall category.

                                                                  BTW Clio is spanked by all the top tier very handily.. Christ, Deuxave spanks Clio for crying out loud :)

                                                                  My favorite is Deaxave

                                                                  6 Replies
                                                                  1. re: drtechno

                                                                    i respectfully disagree about l'espalier and clio. :)

                                                                    1. re: hotoynoodle

                                                                      i'm confused: does that mean you hate L'Espalier and love Clio? Hate both? Can't tell what you are disagreeing with.

                                                                      1. re: teezeetoo

                                                                        have done a la carte and tasting menus at both and clio beat the pants off l'espalier.

                                                                        o ya is a completely different dining experience than either, so i won't equate them.

                                                                        haven't been and will not go to menton.

                                                                    2. re: drtechno

                                                                      We really need to get Tim Cushman to add the "h" to the name. It'd be so much better like that.

                                                                      1. re: mkfisher

                                                                        My original suggestion for O Ya was ¬°Ay, Papi!, but Cushman wasn't having it.


                                                                        1. re: MC Slim JB

                                                                          Maybe he's saving that name for when he opens a tapas place Slim! ; )

                                                                    3. My favorites are Neptune and Hungry Mother, never a bad meal at either for me.

                                                                      1. The best meal I've ever eaten in Boston blew me away. It was at No. 9 Park.

                                                                        But these days there are just too many for me to have an absolute favorite restaurant.

                                                                        Plus cuisine, atmosphere and price point all play into it.

                                                                        1. I know ppl will say we are crazy but before we had kids, we would voyage up to Boston from NY for this and that and never miss going to Butcher Shop. Definitely not so fancy, but we loved it. I wonder if its still good...

                                                                          1. My spouse would say O Ya, but sadly, I've never been there so I have to take his word for it. My faves are Strip T's (my number one foodie love), Toro and Island Creek Oyster Bar. I also like Eastern Standard for cocktails.

                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                            1. re: Kat

                                                                              I was so disappointed by ICOB. Had really been looking forward to it. I ended up being comped my meal because the bouillabaisse was over-reduced and the fish was dry. Won't be going back.

                                                                            2. I recently went to Sycamore in Newton Center with three friends. All I can say is "outstanding", the problem now is that it is really hard to get in!

                                                                              1. I have been to a lot and still like L'Espalier best. I have had some nicer dinners at other places but have also have had some less than enjoyable times as well. I also really have enjoyed O Ya but have only been once so can't comment on consistency.

                                                                                Neptune Oyster is excellent as well but the no reservations policy keeps me from attending very much.

                                                                                1. Single best meal - probably the grand tasting at Craigie, particularly the seafood items.

                                                                                  Favorite - has to be Strip-T's, wonderful food, intriguing ingredients, new experiences, and so very well executed.

                                                                                  1. Erbaluce. Why has no one said Erbaluce?

                                                                                    (And I had a great meal at Steel & Rye recently.)

                                                                                    2 Replies
                                                                                    1. re: celestialmundane

                                                                                      I have to agree that Steel and Rye is excellent. If the question had been whats the best restaurant you eaten at recently they would be my number one.

                                                                                      1. re: celestialmundane

                                                                                        I love Erbaluce. I think Steel & Rye is pretty great. The question is impossible.


                                                                                        1. re: nasilemak

                                                                                          Biba was one of my very favorite Boston restaurants in its day: challenging, innovative, fun, and consistently delicious. I don't think Lydia has ever topped it.


                                                                                            1. re: MC Slim JB

                                                                                              one of the most memorable food presentations i have ever seen was at biba: quail served on a tiny spit, over hot coals! had to have been against all kinds of codes and amazing no server or patron was ever burned! lol.

                                                                                              she was also known for serving all sorts of offal and oogly bits and was making head cheese from scratch while jamie bissonette was still riding a tricycle.

                                                                                              1. re: hotoynoodle

                                                                                                I think Biba did the best things with offal and was wonderfully spritely. I also miss Allegra(?) that was on Boylston near Hereford, Mirabelle on Newbury, and that wonderful war horse, Le Bocage (I sometimes think of Strip T's as Watertown's new version of Le Bocage).

                                                                                                1. re: teezeetoo

                                                                                                  As long as we're on a sidetrack nostalgia trip, I will say that as much as I love Erbaluce, the best dinner I've ever had was the tasting menu I had at Marcuccio's.

                                                                                                  1. re: Allstonian

                                                                                                    The Marcuccio menu darn near scarred my Neapolitan mother - "there's nothing I can eat. There's nothing I can eat!!" Wow, was she ever wrong.

                                                                                                    1. re: Allstonian

                                                                                                      I still think very, very fondly of the wild boar tagliatelle at Marcuccio's...

                                                                                            2. Hungry Mother, Erbaluce and Bergamot for me. 5 Corners Kitchen for best Burbs Restaurant.