Having lived in Boston for over three years and dinned in a good deal of restaurants offering various cuisines, I’m skeptical about the narration that the best food in Boston is Italian (although, I do love Italian food). I don’t stick with fancy, high-end restaurants and will only settle for the specific ones that craft unforgettable dishes, have a great vibe, and fair price points.
Here are 12 of my favorites (but of course, there are many more), some of these are hidden nooks while others are non-touristy local favorites with a cult-like following.
Celeste in Union Square is a very small, highly energetic restaurant that illustrates the love for Peruvian and Andean cuisine. The artistic, creative interiors and the open kitchen atmosphere offer a unique and shared experience (& not to mention the music curated from old radio broadcasts and vinyl rips) serving staples like ceviche, hearty home-cooked meals, lima classic cocktails.
Must try: Pisco Sour, Ceviche Mixed Seafood, Ají de Gallina (Creamy Shredded Chicken Stew with Pecans), Mousse de Lucuma
This dramatic dark and rusty Back-bay cantina is my favorite neighborhood hotspots, for it is the best Mexican food I’ve had in Boston. Vibrant and loud with laughter, this holds a youthful ambiance with a sexy and sedative graffiti art set against Venetian backdrop.
Must try: Spicy Cucumber Margarita, Blackened Mahi-Mahi Tacos, Spicy Cauliflower Nachitos (& the complimentary cotton candy)!
Sarma is the perfect combination of a comfortable neighborhood gem meets high-quality cooking by Ana Sortun and Cassie Piuma. Modeled after Turkish tavern (meyhane), you can experience the traditional meyhane atmosphere that involves a lot of conversation with close friends with a few glasses of raki inspired cocktails over a multi-course meal on small plates in categories like meze, sarma, shish, pies, and desserts. The turquoise blue, brick and wooden interiors with décor like ornate plates from Istanbul and Turkish eye crystal lamps never fail to arouse our senses.
Must try: Persian Irony (Cocktail), Seven-Layer Hummus, Turkish Shrimp, Loukamades With Sesame Caramel. Do try some of the day’s chef specials!
Of all the restaurants in Boston, True Bistro made the biggest impression on me for its unbelievably high caliber VEGAN food. Every single fare I tasted blew my mind. This Teele Square white-linen, fine-dine cozy and small restaurant, mostly overlooked by the mainstream is one of the best in the USA. I still can’t believe vegan can be mouth-wateringly delicious- can’t wait to go back. Must try: Mimosa, Cornmeal-Crusted Oyster Mushrooms, Seitan Skewers, Banana Cake
Baraka is something very special- for its traditional French, Tunisian, and Moroccan unified cuisine, and for its ambiance and the hidden location in Porter Square- there aren’t many restaurants in the region as flavourful as Baraka. I especially love the way chef Alia Meddeb and Omar Bouibegh add a creative touch to the traditional dishes to introduce new spice combinations and re-interpret some classic recipes. Must Try: Cherbat, Kerantika, Bastilla Chicken, Chicken or Lamb Tajine, Seven-spice Flour-less Chocolate Cake
Okay, let’s face it- the list can’t not have Italian cuisine. Piattini (meaning small plate in Italian), located in one of the best corners of Boston’s fashionable back bay district is my personal favorite. I love to visit this restaurant during their patio season, to indulge in high-quality wine, delicious and healthy regional Italian cuisine, and for the happy vibe of Newbury street- great for a de-stress. If you are a wine person like me, do browse their wine menu- they have an incredible selection where you could sample and learn about many different wines in a casual and comfortable environment. Must try: Under the Tuscan Sun (Cocktail), Cavolfiore, Burrata Ravioli
Sichuan garden is the restaurant that I go back to over and over again, which says a lot when you live in a city with new restaurants popping up all the time. Dimly lit, divided into a bunch of small rooms spread throughout the restaurant, Sichuan garden is always consistent on their spice level, and flavor, and is a delicious experience. Must try: Broken Spanish (cocktail), Chengdu Dry Hot Chicken Wings, Braised Fish with Napa Cabbage, Jasmine Tea
Emmets will make you feel like you’ve traveled to Dublin. Going here guarantees high energy and a good time. Coupled with most authentic Irish food and traditional Irish music, it is the best place to bring friends, family or drink buddies. Must try: Guinness (Stout), Guinness Onion Soup, Fish N’ Chips, Shepherd’s Pie
When I was almost about to give up on Indian cuisine in Boston/Cambridge, I’m glad I found Maharaja in Harvard square. There aren’t many authentic Indian restaurants that can compete with Maharaja in Boston or Cambridge. With floor to ceiling windows overlooking bustling Harvard Square, the décor and details in the furniture, ceiling, and fixture portray intricate art and craftsmanship. The menu takes the traditional vibe, offering dishes ranging from papadam, tandoori fare to biryani and naan/roti with classic korma (curry). Must try: Bhel Puri, Shrimp Balchow, Chicken Biryani, Peshawari Naan, Nargisi Malai Kofta, Mango Chutney
Santouka is a good raman spot located in the Back-bay area (and they opened another one in Harvard square recently). There will be a line outside the Back-bay restaurant to get seated since it is a tiny nook and much loved by students, locals, and tourists alike-but the service is quick and efficient. You can definitely quench your raman craving without burning a hole in your pocket, but this is, however, not a restaurant you’d want to go for a relaxed meal.
Must try: Spicy Miso Raman (If you’d like to spend a casual and relaxed raman lunch or dinner in Boston, Wagamama at Seaport, Prudential or Faneuil hall marketplace is equally great)
Dona Habana is a casual yet energetic Cuban restaurant on a busy corner of South End. Vibrant and colorful with photographs, music, and artifacts from Cuba, Dona Habana serves things like ceviche, empanadas, casserole, paella, and more. Must try: Fried Sweet Plantain, Gambas Al Ajillo, Arroz Imperial Con Maduros,Pudin De Pan & Dulce De Leche
This Malaysian inspired Asian fusion restaurant located in Chinatown is my go-to place when my craving for Roti Canai and curry chicken hit. Penang is a great place for group dining- and order a ton of food- it’s the best way to get the most out of the dining experience here.
Must try: Home Made Roti Canai, Pineapple Fried Rice, Malaysian Iced Tea
All the above opinions are mine, and NOT sponsored. These restaurants are not listed in any particular order. All photographs belong to the respective restaurants.