Best Boston Restaurants—Classic and New

From classic clam chowder to contemporary cuisine infused with a New England flavor, Boston has it all.


Boston has more to offer than cod and baked beans, thank goodness. In recent years, there has been an explosion of new Boston restaurants with serious chops; however, there are some mainstays worth checking out too. Several Boston chefs made their names here and have become familiar faces on the Food Network. Many, such as Todd English and Barbara Lynch, even have mini-food dynasties here, with several restaurants under their toques.

It’s worth noting that Boston is not a late-night dining town. Many spots stop serving around 10 p.m. and bars start closing at 1 a.m., if not earlier. At popular restaurants, waits can be ferocious, so if you can make a reservation in advance, be sure to do so.

Best of the Classics

The Union Oyster House opened in 1826, making it America’s oldest restaurant and a National Historic Landmark. It is located steps from Faneuil Hall. As its name indicates, it’s a seafood restaurant and you can’t go wrong with any of its classics, such as broiled scrod and the hot oyster house platter. The clubby atmosphere, low ceilings, and “olde worlde” décor shouldn’t deceive you into thinking food isn’t taken seriously here. The clam chowder is among the best in the city. The Kennedy clan has long been coming here, and John F. Kennedy’s favorite booth has a plaque dedicated to him upstairs.

41 Union St., tel. 617-227-2750. Average entrée is $25.

No. 9 Park, owned by the James Beard award-winning chef Barbara Lynch is an elegant and swanky spot in a townhouse on Beacon Hill. The menu is a blend of French and Italian influences. A three-course pre-fixe menu or the chef’s seven-course tasting menu is a great way to experience Lynch’s range. Reservations are a good idea at least a couple weeks in advance, but you can walk into the bar and get served from the full menu.

9 Park St., tel. 617-742-9991. Average entrée is $39.

Many locals credit superstar chef Todd English and his Olives restaurant for bringing Boston into the national spotlight for fine dining. The Charlestown restaurant, 20 years after opening, still delivers fantastic Mediterranean food, even if its chef is off checking on one of his many other ventures. Reservations a week in advance are advised.

10 City Square, Charlestown; tel 617-242-1999. Average entrée is about $30.

L’Espalier in the Back Bay is many people’s go-to spot for a special occasion, and reservations are definitely recommended a couple weeks in advance. Chef Frank McClelland, among other honors, was named James Beard Best Northeast Chef in 2007. The menu reflects seasonal New England ingredients with a French spin, which changes daily depending on what looks good to the chef. Whatever you order, finish with the signature cheese plate, which the restaurant is famous for.

774 Boylston St., tel. 617-262-3023. Three-course pre-fixe menu is $82.

For another French menu, head to the Brasserie Jo bistro at the Colonnade Hotel near Copley Square. Complete with tile floors and Art Deco French posters on the walls, the restaurant serves up classics such as steak frites with style.

120 Huntington Ave., tel. 617-425-3240. Average entrée is $20.

Jasper White’s Summer Shack is the perfect spot to chow down on some serious seafood in a not-so-serious manner. Picnic tables, lobster bibs, and great food make for a fun, hands-on dining experience.

50 Dalton St., tel. 617-867-9955. Average entrée is $22.

New Culinary Hot Spots

Another Barbara Lynch spot, Sportello, is just plain cool. The name translates to “counter service” and that’s where you’ll eat at this upscale diner that has only counter space and no tables. The chefs cook in an open-air kitchen, and your Italian food is served fast and delicious.

348 Congress St., tel. 617-737-1234. Average entrée is $16.

Sensing opened to much fanfare in early 2009, as this is famed French chef Guy Martin’s first American venture. Look for Asian, French and American flavors with New England products.

Fairmont Battery Wharf, 3 Battery Wharf; tel. 617-994-9000. Average entrée is $32.

Boston foodies waited with anticipation for local popular chef Lydia Shire to open Scampo at the Liberty Hotel. We weren’t disappointed. The Italian menu is quirky and dynamic and fortunately, Shire’s lobster pizza (which she made famous at a former venture) is on the menu.

215 Charles St., tel. 617-536-2100. Average entrée is $30.

In the South End, it takes guts to open a new spot when there is such a surfeit of great places to eat, but Estragon offers a winning combo of delicious and inexpensive Spanish tapas and a décor inspired by a 1930s Madrid supper club.

700 Harrison Ave., tel. 617-266-0443. Average price for individual tapas dish is $10. 

Destinations: Boston

Themes: Culinary

Activities: Eat

User Comments

Should try out in downtown Blu Restaurant & Bar. Its in the theatre district with skyline views. 617-375-8550 for reservations

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