More insider guides for planning a trip to Boston
These are unusual times, and the state of affairs can change quickly. Please check the latest travel guidance before making your journey. Note that our writer visited pre-pandemic.
Look at the menus of a handful of Boston restaurants, and you’ll easily see that seafood is a prime focus. In fact, outside of an island community, few other places consume as much fish and seafood as here. It really is just everywhere, but look for local catches straight off the boat. Good restaurants also focus on New England farmed vegetables and fruit; and New England cheeses rival imports and are ripened to perfection. You can’t leave without trying traditional dishes such as New England clam chowder and Boston cream pie, but there’s a wealth of more modern renditions worth ordering too.
Mooncusser Fish House
Set in a triangular building on Stuart Street, this elegant bi-level bar and restaurant focuses on local fish species and sustainable aqua and agriculture. Treatments are sophisticated: think truffled striped bass; halibut with nasturtium butter; and meaty monkfish with braised kohlrabi in a tarragon bourride. There are meat choices too, such as lamb chops with sun chokes; and a mushroom flan with salsify for veggies. The Gilfeather turnip soup of heirloom turnip purée paired with diced turnip, topped with pear cream and oysters is a delicate treat. Desserts are exquisite, don’t miss out. Oh, and a mooncusser was a ship wrecker whose nasty work was disrupted when the full moon alerted his victims.
Contact:00 617 917 5193; mooncusserfishhouse.com
Opening times: Mon-Sat, 5pm–10pm
T stop: Arlington
Select Oyster Bar
Select is a cosy, but chic neighbourhood joint. There’s a central bar, window perch, and an indoor patio at the back; but you can’t be too choosy where you sit, it’s very popular. As its name suggests, this is a great place to enjoy fabulously fresh (or cooked) local oysters: Katamas from Martha’s Vineyard, or Cotuits from the Cape, or Glidden Points from Maine, say. Giant plateau de fruits de mer and classic continental dishes such a a luscious bouillabaisse with crostini are specialties. The romanesco cauliflower is out of this world. Sit at the bar and break some ice if not bread with locals. Note, also à la France, but unusually for Boston, a 20 per cent gratuity is automatically included here; no further tip is necessary.
Contact: 00 857 239 8064; selectoyster.com
Opening times: Mon-Thurs, 11:30am-2:30pm and 4:30pm-9:30pm; Fri-Sat, 11:30am-10:30pm; Sun, 11:30am-9:30pm
T stop: Hynes Convention Center
This smart Back Bay restaurant is the sister eatery to the much-loved (and a bit pricey) Grill 23 & Bar steakhouse. Split over two floors, the ground level is styled like a posh tavern and offers more casual vibe. Upstairs, a smart restaurant with open-plan kitchen delivers the best themed farm-to-table, distillery-to-table, or brewery-to-table dinners. Check the website for upcoming events. Otherwise, the same local New England and North Atlantic produce, including a fantastic selection of local cheeses, is spun into lunch, brunch, and dinner.
Contact: 00 617 399 0015; post390restaurant.com
Opening times: Mon-Fri, 11:30am-11pm; Sat, 5pm-11pm; Sun, 10am-10pm
T stop: Copley
SRV stands for Serene Republic of Venice, but don’t expect paintings of gondoliers at this chic reinvention of a Venetian restaurant and wine bar. This modern room has ornate filigree touches, sure, but it’s open plan and airy. It’s the menus that truly honors the city on stilts –given much of Boston’s South End is built on pylons, too, there’s a connection right there! This is a great spot for sharable cicchetti (small bites) and cocktails with a heavy Italian influence, but don’t miss the made-to-order risotto, or pastas made from house-milled grains.
Contact: 00 617 536 9500; srvboston.com
Opening times: Daily, 5pm-11pm; late night menu till 1am
T stop: Massachusetts Ave
Dining in the North End is a must-do; with its narrow winding streets and 18th-century buildings, it’s delightfully quaint. The British first settled here; then it became an Italian neighbourhood, which now dominates the culinary landscape. There are lots of restaurants, both decent and so-so, but neighbourhood long-stay Prezza is excellent. Inspired Old World meets New World Italian cooking, and excellent wines, and top-notch service are also delivered in a small, elegant dining room, or at the cosy bar. The aubergine parmesan is probably the best ever.
Contact: 00 617 227 1577, prezza.com
Opening times: Mon-Thurs, 5pm-10pm; Fri-Sat, 5pm-10:30pm; Sun, 4pm-9pm
T stop: North Station, Aquarium
South Boston Waterfront
Legal Sea Foods
The Legal Sea Foods story is a local one: this seafood chain began life as a wet fish stall in Cambridge and now there seems to be one in every neighbourhood. Legal Harborside opened in 2011 as the flagship location, with a marketplace and three stories of dining over approximately 20,000 square feet. Besides all this lavish space, it has an enviable waterside location right by the harbour. That means water views from the windows and waterside dining on the deck. Try the classic creamy New England clam chowder; many adore it.
Contact: 00 617 417 2100, legalseafoods.com
Opening times: Mon-Fri, 11:30am-2am; Sat-Sun, 11am-2am
T stop: Courthouse
This lauded wine and food-pairing restaurant in the gorgeous Boston Harbor Hotel, home of the annual Boston Wine Festival, no less, offers a 10-course tasting menu – allow at least two hours to enjoy it; a four-course prix fixe, and à la carte options. Comfort food such as a 48-hour red wine braised short rib with pomme purée contrasts with some snippets of gastronomic alchemy: scallop shells filled with tangy ceviche float on a misty cloud and smoke puffs out as the glass lid is lifted off the smoked and raw beet salad. The food is superb and the view over the harbour equals its grand gastronomic reach.
Contact: 00 617 439 3995; meritagetherestaurant.com
Opening times: Tues-Sat, 5:30pm-11pm
T stop: Aquarium
Oak + Rowan
This impressive restaurant is set in an old industrial building dating to 1913 and owned by the once powerful Boston Wharf Company (which is referenced in the restored BWC sign hanging from the restaurant’s ceiling). It is named for the mighty trees that form the exposed beams that are a part of its remarkable décor. The menu is modern, New England inspired, and filled with smart, sophisticated dishes, such as cured trout rillettes and caviar, and Taza chocolate tart flavoured with Earl Grey tea, which utilizes Somerville milled cacao. The ever-changing Thursday night Celebrations Menu is a market-driven chef’s whim selection.
Contact: 00 857 284 7742; oakandrowan.com
Opening times: Mon-Sat, 11:30am-11pm; Sun, 10am-4pm
T stop: South Station
Eventide Fenway, the fourth venture from three young Portland, Maine restaurant owners, two of whom are James Beard Award winning co-chefs, elevates the New England seafood shack to urbane foodie hangout. Slurp down the cocktail of the day and freshly shucked local oysters; try luscious crudo and local kombucha; or a Boston brew and a brown buttered lobster roll. Not a huge fan of fish? The burger topped with Korean red pepper mayo should do the trick. The in-house made soft serve ice cream is unbelievably good. Eventide Fenway is casual and has counter service, but with white linen-level crafted dishes.
Contact: 00 617 545 1060; eventideoysterco.com
Opening times: Daily, 11am-10pm
T stop: Kenmore
PABU Boston is a transplant from the West Coast, but this modern take on a traditional izakaya, or Japanese tavern, is a superb experience. Also, located on the second floor of the Millennium Tower Boston – a massive residential development, which has transformed the once tawdry Downtown Crossing into some of the city’s most expensive real estate – it’s indicative of the new Boston. Try Ken’s Roll, named for co-owning, co-chef Ken Tominaga. It’s a simple yet perfect mix of hamachi and tempura shrimp. Sunday evening’s ramen pop-up ends the weekend with comfort bowls. Skip lunch, weekday Happy Hour, 4pm-6pm, has some super deals.
Contact: 00 857 327 7228; michaelmina.net
Opening times: Mon-Thurs, 4pm-10pm; Fri-Sat, 5:30pm-10:30pm; Sun, 5pm-9pm
T stop: Downtown Crossing