Boston

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The past decade has seen Boston emerge as a first-class culinary destination, chock full of innovative, award-winning restaurants – from refined, white-tablecloth establishments to hip eateries packed with young professionals. But beware: Boston is still, in many ways, a small town. Word gets around about hot new spots and tables fill up quickly, so always reserve ahead. And don't get so caught up in the latest, greatest tables that you overlook restaurants that have stood the test of time.

Top Restaurants in Boston

Anna's Taqueria

Locals know Boston's best burritos and quesadillas are ordered at the counter of this unassuming chain. Though you may not be able to finish it all, go crazy with a full-on Mexican plate of rice topped with grilled chicken, chili verde and grilled vegetables, or the city's best al pastor (beans, a corn tortilla, salsa, and hot sauce). It'll run you a mere 4.95. Just make sure you wash it down with a Jarritos soda; the colors resemble neon signs but they're oddly addictive.

Six locations throughout Boston, MA, www.annastaqueria.com
Tags: budget | great value | mexican

Casa Romero

With its 40th anniversary just a few years away, Casa Romero is still the go-to choice for Bostonians hungry for the city's best upscale Mexican cuisine. During the brilliant days of spring, try for a space on the warm-weather patio. But don't worry if it's full since the bright and lively interior offers pure visual pleasure to complement your meal. On your first visit, it's practically a must to try the restaurant's signature dish: tenderloin of pork marinated in oranges and smoked chipotle peppers. Toting tots (or preteens)? Casa Romero's well-priced children's menu ($8.95) is sure to please.  

30 Gloucester St., MA, 617-536-4341, www.casaromero.com
Tags: moderate | patio | local favorite | mexican

Christina's Ice Cream

This is your vacation, so go ahead and have ice cream for dinner, especially if the ice cream is this good. It is amazingly good – inspiring fierce loyalty in its customers. You will mourn its loss when your vacation ends. You will wonder how you ever lived without ginger molasses or lavender ice cream. You will count the days until you return.

1255 Cambridge St., Massachusetts, 617-492-7021, www.christinasicecream.com
Tags: budget | local favorite | dessert | takeout

Clio

This elegant eatery, located on upscale Commonwealth Avenue, owes its vision to highly regarded executive chef and co-owner Ken Oringer, who conjures artful French-American cuisine like fricassee of Burgundy escargot and crispy pork belly and black licorice roasted Lola duck. For foodies determined to seek out some of Boston's best Japanese food, Clio is also home to Uni, a restaurant within a restaurant. Uni’s chefs prepare unique dishes such as Uni Spoon with quail egg, Osetra caviar and chives. Your best bet: Order the Chef Choice sashimi sampler and let the chef guide you through the best ingredients of the evening.

370 Commonwealth Ave., MA, 617-536-7200, www.cliorestaurant.com
Tags: expensive | notable chef | american | smart splurge | french

Dolce Vita

A classic Italian joint with a little (well, actually a lot) of something for everyone, this North End eatery serves big plates of steaming pasta, 12-ounce veal chops and fresh lobster in a pleasingly spicy red sauce. Reasonable prices and a genial host (who also happens to have the best moustache in Boston) make Dolce Vita stand apart from its plentiful neighbors. And remember, if you don't like your meal, Sicilian-born owner Franco Graceffa says you shouldn't have to pay. It's doubtful anybody ever takes him up on that one.

221 Hanover St., MA, 617-720-0422, www.dolcevitaristorante.com
Tags: moderate | italian | notable wine list | brunch

Grill 23

Recognized as royalty in the city's steakhouse scene, Grill 23 boasts a clubby atmosphere and superior service that will take the edge off even the toughest business meeting. But it's also a prime date spot, no doubt helped by the award-winning wine list. With a focus on humanely raised meats, sustainable seafood and organic produce, the restaurant merges steakhouse tradition with modern culinary zeitgeist. Steak is, of course, the main draw (ordered with a side of pommes frites or blue mashed potatoes), but don't overlook the extensive raw bar appetizers.

161 Berkeley St., MA, 617-542-2255, www.grill23.com
Tags: business | expensive | notable wine list | steakhouse

Modern Pastry Shop

When walking the Freedom Trail, you will need to stop and refuel. Family-owned Modern Pastry Shop is the spot to do it. The only problem: choosing your treat. Don't torture yourself. The prices are reasonable, so just buy everything that catches your eye. None of it will go to waste. But if you prefer a recommendation, we’d suggest a quarter pound of pignoli cookies, a few Florentines, a pound of biscotti (they'll stay fresh for your entire trip), and an espresso. Yes, that should get you through the rest of the day.

257 Hanover St., Massachusetts, 617-523-3783, www.modernpastry.com
Tags: budget | dessert | takeout

Mooo Restaurant

This upscale steakhouse at acclaimed boutique hotel XV Beacon doesn’t sacrifice style for selection, what with ten kinds of steak (not to mention a host of appetizers and à la carte sides) and over 500 different wines from the property’s wine cellar (which is available as a venue for private events). During the week, State House workers mingle with the business crowd at intimate corner tables with high-backed chairs or pull up to the bar for a quick bite. For the best value, come at midday Sunday or Monday for the three-course prix fixe lunch for $35.00, now a permanent fixture on the menu thanks to its success during restaurant week. Choose from succulent appetizers such as steamed mussels with chorizo followed by lavish entrées like a New York sirloin or cider-glazed salmon before indulging in lemon pound cake or a brownie sundae for dessert.

15 Beacon St, MA, 617-670-2515, www.mooorestaurant.com
Tags: expensive | smart splurge | hotel restaurant | steakhouse | prix-fixe

No Name Restaurant

It looks like a tourist trap, but it's actually the real deal. This historic, on-the-water restaurant, opened in 1917, pulls in locals for weekday lunches and after-work beer and seafood chow downs. The straightforward menu offers the best that regional waters serve up, from scrod to clams and beyond. Keep it simple and, please, don't get a grilled chicken salad.

15 Fish Pier St. West, Massachusetts, 617-338-7539, www.nonamerestaurant.com
Tags: moderate | historic | local favorite

Rialto Restaurant + Bar

Jody Adams, one of Cambridge's most beloved chefs (and a James Beard award winner), opened Rialto in 1994 – and her Italian cuisine made with New England ingredients has been packing in fans ever since. Adams focuses on seasonally available ingredients and updates the menu constantly. Recent dishes include grilled boar chop with squash, kale, beans and pomegranate; and roasted bluefish in grape leaves. Or consider tasting your way through the four-course Regional Cuisine Menu, which highlights flavors from different areas of Italy on a monthly or bi-monthly basis. Diners who really fall for Rialto can return for one of Adams' cooking classes.

One Bennett St., Massachusetts, 617-661-5050, www.rialto-restaurant.com
Tags: expensive | notable chef | smart splurge | italian | notable wine list

Salts

Chef Gabriel Bremer and his wife and co-owner, Analia Verolo, welcome guests into their cozy Cambridge bistro as if it were an extension of their own home. Named one of 2007’s Best New Chefs by Food & Wine magazine, Bremer effortlessly whips organic, local ingredients (including produce from his own farm) into mouthwatering French-influenced mainstays like whole-roasted, boneless duck for two. The wine list includes several half bottles, a pairing-friendly way to approach your meal.  

798 Main St., MA, 617-876-8444, www.saltsrestaurant.com
Tags: expensive | notable chef | editor pick | smart splurge | french | organic

Sam LaGrassa's

One Bostonian we know was in tears when he realized that a job switch meant he would have to leave his beloved Sam LaGrassa’s behind. Considered by many to be the city's best sandwich shop, it's open for just limited hours (Mon.–Fri. 11 a.m.–3 p.m.) so don't miss it. The pastrami is to die for.

44 Province St., Massachusetts, 617-357-6861, www.samlagrassas.com
Tags: budget | local favorite | takeout

Sel de la Terre

At this acclaimed 10-year-old French brasserie, every meal begins with bread that’s freshly baked onsite and widely considered the best in Boston. But, tempting as it may be, don't gorge on it. Leave room for delicious rustic-country classics like baked aged goat cheese and George’s Bank lemon sole. If you’re not near the Waterfront, reserve at the newer location in Back Bay for the nightly three-course prix-fixe dinner for $35 or Wine Wednesdays for four courses and four wines for $44. One of the best surprises: Both locales are kid-friendly, offering one of the swankiest children's menus around (yet with prices kept in check).

255 State St., MA, 617-720-1300, www.seldelaterre.com
Tags: expensive | french

The Beehive

An instant hit as an eclectic night spot/jazz club/see-and-be-seen venue for Boston thirtysomethings, The Beehive also turns out some really good comfort food. While the place does get – and this is putting it mildly – crowded, it's worth waiting for a table because it means your night is going to include devastatingly good made-to-order frites with sage and sea salt. When the weather is fair, consider taking up residence at one of the outside tables.

541 Tremont St., Massachusetts, 617-423-0069, www.beehiveboston.com
Tags: moderate | patio | dancing | local favorite | brunch

The Butcher Shop

After a day spent reveling in Boston's history, this warm and inviting South End eatery/butcher shop gives you the chance to explore that bygone era when the local butcher mattered (as he still does in Europe). Whether you choose a selection of small plates (including tastes of The Butcher Shop's own sausages) or go for a Kobe steak (cooked rare, please), you can't go wrong. Even if the place, one of seven restaurants run by Boston-born chef Barbara Lynch, didn’t deliver some of the best meat-centric meals we've come across, the wine and cheese menus would be reason enough to linger.

552 Tremont St., MA, 617-423-4800, www.thebutchershopboston.com
Tags: moderate | editor pick | great value | notable wine list | charcuterie

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